Reed was the FTSE 100's best-performing share yesterday, rising 37p to 492p on news of the appointment from 1 September. Meanwhile, media buying agency Aegis Group, which Mr Davis currently runs, saw its shares dip 4 per cent to 140p.
The appointment follows an April boardroom row that culminated in the resignation of two veteran Dutch directors, amid reports that Jonathan Newcomb, the head of US publisher Simon & Schuster, had declined the post at the last minute.
Aegis, for its part, reached into Rupert Murdoch's News International, publisher of The Sun and The Times, to recruit its managing director Doug Flynn to become chief executive. Mr Flynn has held increasingly senior management positions at NI since coming to Britain in 1994.
Mr Davis, meanwhile, will grapple with problems ranging from growing margin pressure in Reed Elsevier's US on-line information unit Lexis-Nexis to sales revenue slumps in its travel information business and in Asia. The company is also emerging from a reorganisation into one unified board of its formerly separate Dutch and UK management teams.
"We looked for a man with certain qualities, including a track record with turning businesses around and then driving them forward," Reed Elsevier's chairman Morris Tabaksblat said. "He has experience in marketing and in dealing with major industrial change."
Mr Davis will receive an annual salary of pounds 750,000 and be eligible for an annual pounds 375,000 performance-related bonus. He will also receive pounds 5m- worth of shares after 36 months to compensate for lost share options from Aegis and a further pounds 3m of share options that can be exercised over three to five years.
Question marks have surrounded Reed Elsevier's independence as the company's share price has sunk. Last year, an agreed merger with the science publisher Wolters Kluwer came unstuck and in recent months its fast-growing Dutch rival has been linked to a possible hostile bid for Reed Elsevier.
Yesterday Mr Tabaksblat emphasised the company's potential as predator rather than prey. "This company is financially very sound and very healthy, and is potentially very leveragable," he said. "I'm not saying anything is in the offing but we never stop the acquisition process."
The outgoing co-chief executive Nigel Stapleton has said the company could spend pounds 1.5bn on an acquisition.Reuse content