A while ago, Lombard likened Pearson to Philip Larkin’s description of a good book — “a beginning, a muddle and an end”. John Fallon will reach his end as chief executive this week. But he leaves the business still in a muddle and its chairman Sidney Taurel right in the middle. And it is still not clear that Pearson has good tale to tell.
Mr Fallon presided over seven profit warnings during the seven years he was chief executive. And Mr Taurel, recruited in 2016, was there for at least four of them.
Mr Fallon’s plan was to turn the media and publishing conglomerate into a focused online education business, selling off the Financial Times among other assets. That has done a lot to strengthen Pearson’s balance sheet but little else.
The past five years have been marked by disappointments, poor sales growth and erosion in margins and market share