Windfall for academics as publisher goes to market after 200 years

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The Independent Online
A LONDON UNIVERSITY professor and a retired academic from Birmingham University are likely to be worth at least pounds 15m each following the stock market flotation of a scientific publishing company in which they both have substantial stakes.

Taylor & Francis, a 200-year old publisher of academic journals and books, yesterday announced plans for a stock market flotation which will value the company at around pounds 100m.

Shareholders include David Banister, a professor of transport at University College London, and his family, who own 17 per cent, Elnora Ferguson, a retired academic who is also a former chairman of the company and other academics.

The shareholdings are a legacy of 1936, when Taylor & Francis turned itself from a partnership into a private company and established its links with the scientific community by selling shares to eminent scientists.

Professor Banister inherited his riches from his grandfather, Dr Henry Banister, who as a member of the psychology laboratory at Cambridge was given the opportunity to buy 1,000 shares in the company in 1940. Yesterday Professor Banister said: "I'm a beneficiary of the wise investment of my grandfather."

Other shareholders include the family of Professor Sir Nevill Mott, the physicist and Nobel Laureate who died two years ago, as well as 3i, the venture capital group.

The company was set up in 1798 to publish Philosophical Magazine, which is still published.

In recent years Taylor & Francis has grown rapidly, taking over other publishers and expanding into new areas. It has more than 10,000 book titles in print, and expects to publish 150 journals and 600 new books this year.

Between 1995 and 1997, Taylor & Francis increased its turnover by 60 per cent to pounds 30.06m. Last year, the company reported a pre-tax profit of pounds 7.15m.

The company has started replacing the academics on its board with businessmen. Its chairman is Gus Macdonald, chairman of Scottish Media Group. Derek Mapp, the entrepreneur who built up the Tom Cobleigh pub chain and recently announced plans to set up a chain of children's nurseries, is a non-executive director.

Anthony Selvey, chief executive, said that a stock market flotation would strengthen the company's balance sheet, increase its profile, and allow it to compete for acquisitions. It would also provide liquidity for existing shareholders and allow the company to offer share options to existing staff. Taylor & Fisher is like to raise about pounds 20m in new money, while existing shareholders are expected to keep most of their shares.

Taylor & Francis has started publishing its journals electronically, but Mr Selvey said that readers still preferred print. Reed Elsevier, one of the world's largest scientific publishing groups, is making a determined effort to publish all its journals on-line.

Mr Selvey admitted that Taylor & Fisher had received numerous takeover approaches from larger publishers, including Reed. However, he said the company was committed to retaining its independence.