Pearson sells publishing unit for pounds 57m

Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive of media conglomerate Pearson, has delivered on one of her promises to weed out non-core businesses by selling part of its medical books division, which publishes Gray's Anatomy, in her first big disposal since arriving at the group in January.

The deal promises to be the first of many as Ms Scardino embarks on a wide-ranging shake-up Pearson, the group which controls a diverse set of businesses from the Financial Times to leisure attractions such as Madame Tussauds.

Pearson indicated earlier this year that it would put its 50 per cent stake in Lazard Brothers, the merchant bank, up for sale. It is also planning to sell residual stakes in BSkyB and SES, the Luxembourg-based Astra satellite owner.

Pearson announced yesterday that it had sold Churchill Livingstone, publisher of the medical textbook, to Harcourt General, for $92.5m (pounds 57.5m). Churchill Communications, the other element of Pearson's medical publishing interests, is likely to be disposed of later.

Churchill Livingstone, founded in 1812 and one of the oldest medical publishers in the world, publishes over 1,500 books and CD-Roms, and 70 journals for healthcare professionals. It was acquired by Pearson around 30 years ago, and has almost 200 staff. Its operations are based in the US and the UK.

Peter Warwick, chief executive of Pearson Professional, said: "Our ambition matches that of Pearson as a whole: to have strong positions in our chosen markets. Churchill Livingstone has a highly prestigious list, first-rate authors and excellent, dedicated staff, but we believe our resources can be better deployed in focusing on a smaller number of publishing businesses."

City analysts said that Pearson had secured a fair price for the sale.

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