World News

Pearson appoints former Disney exec Bird as new chief

Key Points
  • Bird pushed digital to consumer sales at Walt Disney.
  • He will replace John Fallon on Oct. 19.
  • Shares up 1.5%.

In this article

Andy Bird, the new CEO of Pearson
MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

Global education publisher Pearson has appointed Andy Bird as its next chief executive, turning to a media veteran who helped build Walt Disney's consumer digital business to see it through its latest transformation.    

Pearson said Bird was due to start his new job on Oct. 19, with current boss John Fallon remaining in the role until that date. Fallon, who had been due to step down this year, will then quit the board while remaining as an advisor until the end of the year.

The British company, the world's biggest education publisher, has cut thousands of jobs and restructured over recent years to sell textbooks and courseware online, after a rapid move to digital sales sparked repeated profit warnings.

"Because of (Bird's) experience and skills, he is extremely well placed to continue the transformation of Pearson, leading it to a new era of growth and enhancing value for all our shareholders," Chairman Sidney Taurel said.   

Earlier this year Pearson maintained its dividend payout to shareholders even as many major British companies were forced by the Covid-19 crisis to reduce their payouts, as the pandemic helped accelerate a shift to digital learning as schools and colleges shut.

Bird, who was chairman of Walt Disney International until 2018, is currently a non-executive director at Pearson and was appointed to the board on May 1.

Credit Suisse said the appointment was likely to be taken positively but challenges remain.

Bird will purchase shares in the company worth $3.75 million. His pay package which includes salary, a cash allowance and participation in an incentive plan, will need to be approved by shareholders at a special meeting, and his appointment remains conditional on that approval.