Outlook: Reed learns the lessons

WHEN IT comes to shaking up senior management, Reed Elsevier has clearly learnt a thing or two in the past four years.

The revelation yesterday that Herman Bruggink and Nigel Stapleton, its Anglo-Dutch chief executive's double act, were to step back to be replaced by an as yet unchosen outsider could hardly have passed more smoothly.

On both sides of the North Sea, investors received the changes with little more than a raised eyebrow. It was a world away from 1994, when Peter Davis sent share prices spinning when he stomped out of Reed's boardroom after losing a power struggle with his Dutch opposite number.

Reed's spin doctors have come up with lots of good explanations for this one. The five year old merger has been so successful - so the argument goes - that the English and Dutch camps no longer need separate boards to make sure they're not being legged over by the other lot.

Messrs Bruggink and Stapleton are good at buying and selling businesses, but what Reed really needs now is someone with marketing skills.

Mr Stapleton has his own reasons for stepping back: after a career straddling Amsterdam and London, first with Unilever, then with Reed, he wants to have a shot at something else. How about a job with Shell?

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