Scardino takes an evolutionary approach

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The Independent Online
Shortly before Marjorie Scardino took charge at Pearson she told a colleague, in no uncertain terms, that things needed shaking up at this sleepy old media conglomerate. She summed up her strategy by quoting her compatriot, General Douglas MacArthur: have a good plan, executive it violently, and do it today.

Just 49 days into her new job, and Ms Scardino seems to altered tack a bit. Evolution, not revolution, she insists will be her guiding principle in the long campaign to improve Pearson's lot. This is much more in tune with the old way at Pearson and some in the City will no doubt be disappointed by it. But there may be something in it. Whether investors are prepared to give her the time she needs for the evolutionary approach to work remains to be seen.

The pounds 150m investment in the FT plainly makes sense. The pink un's strong brand name is an obviously under-exploited asset, particularly overseas and especially in the US, where it ought to be selling far more than the 35,000 copies it shifts at the moment. The FT very much falls into the category of `old' media but at least it is a business Ms Scardino and the rest of the Pearson board understand. The same cannot be said of Mindscape.

In any case her plan to imitate Gen MacArthur may be more than just empty rhetoric. Ms Scardino won't specify which businesses she plans to sell in her drive for more focus, but it is clear she is looking at companies where Pearson does not have a controlling stake. This would include BSkyB, where Pearson still has a 4.3 per cent stake, and SES, the six per cent- owned Astra satellite group. But it might also take in Lazards, a previously sacrosanct investment.

These three disposals could raise up to pounds 1bn for Pearson - enough to buy Ms Scardino the time she needs to answer her critics. Until then the City should defer judgement.