LONDON: British publishing company Pearson on Wednesday said it had agreed to sell its 50-percent stake in The Economist Group, owner of prestigious magazine The Economist.
The share is being sold for £469 million ($730 million, 663 million euros), split between The Economist Group itself and Italian investment firm Exor, which is controlled by the Agnelli family, Pearson said in a statement.
Exor is meanwhile raising its stake to 43.4 percent from 4.7 percent, it said in a separate statement.
“Exor has agreed to purchase 27.8 percent of The Economist Group’s ordinary shares for consideration of £227.5 million and all of the B special shares for consideration of £59.5 million from Pearson,” the British publisher said.
“Pearson’s remaining ordinary shares will be repurchased by The Economist Group for a total consideration of £182 million.”
The sale forms part of major restructuring at Pearson, which wants to focus solely on its education publishing business.
It last month announced plans to sell The Economist Group, which includes also Economist.com and the Economist Intelligence Unit, as it revealed also a deal to sell the Financial Times newspaper to Japanese digital media group Nikkei.
“Pearson is now 100 percent focused on our global education strategy,” its chief executive John Fallon said in Wednesday’s statement.
“The world of education is changing rapidly and we see great opportunity to grow our business through increasing access to high quality learning globally.”
Pearson described The Economist as “one of the world’s leading weekly business and current affairs publications with a circulation of around 1.6 million.”
Exor chairman and chief executive John Elkann said the company he runs “have always admired the editorial integrity and thoroughly global outlook that are the hallmarks of The Economist’s success.”
He added: “Our strong belief in the merits of this investment is all the greater given The Economist’s decision to join us, by investing in its own shares, which is a sign of its confidence in the Group’s exciting and profitable future.
“Together we are convinced of the huge potential that still lies ahead and particularly in The Economist’s ability to seize the many development opportunities linked to the digitization of the media industry.”
On its website, The Economist magazine said the transaction “will include amendments to the Group’s articles, which will safeguard the independence of the company and crucially, the editorial independence of The Economist.”
The Economist Group chairman Rupert Pennant-Rea said it had “been blessed over many years to have had in the Financial Times and subsequently Pearson, a shareholder that
understood and supported the ethos of the Group.”
He added: “The board is also pleased to welcome Exor, an exemplary shareholder for the past six years, in its new role as the anchor investor in the Group.
“Exor has shown great respect for the culture and traditions of The Economist, underscored by its willingness to cap its voting rights.”
Launched in 1843, The Economist began as political, commercial, agricultural and free-trade journal.
Pearson and Exor said the transaction was expected to conclude in the fourth quarter of 2015, subject to approvals from regulators and shareholders.
Pearson had in July announced it was selling the FT Group, excluding The Economist Group, for £844 million.