U.K.-based education company Pearson has named former Walt Disney executive Andy Bird as its next CEO, drawing praise from activist investor Cevian Capital. Bird is the former chairman of Walt Disney International and previously held senior positions at AOL Time Warner and Virgin Broadcasting.
Bird’s appointment is effective from October 19, when current CEO John Fallon will step down. Fallon will remain with the company as an adviser until the end of the year. Bird joined the board of Pearson in May.
“We welcome the appointment of Andy Bird as new CEO as an important step for Pearson towards realizing its full potential,” Cevian’s managing partner Christer Gardell said in an emailed statement to Activist Insight Online. “He will bring entrepreneurial experience and high energy to Pearson, and we expect him to drive profitable growth and shareholder value.”
Cevian Capital took a large stake in Pearson in June and said it wanted a CEO with a “clear track record of shareholder value creation.”
Pearson said it had consulted with “small number of Pearson’s largest shareholders” on Bird’s appointment and approved a “remuneration package which it is satisfied will promote the long-term success of Pearson.”
“Since joining the board earlier this year I have quickly come to see the enormous potential across the company’s businesses, the strength and dedication of the people who work here, and the great opportunities that exist for Pearson to become a digital first learning company,” Bird said in a statement.
Under Fallon’s seven-year tenure, the company has sold assets in a bid to become more nimble, including the Financial Times, publishing house Penguin, and a stake in The Economist. However, the company’s U.S. business has suffered continually and the firm issued a string of profit warnings. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on its test centers and education unit, as customers shifted to online alternatives.