LONDON: 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 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 US$3.75 million. His pay package which includes a 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.