Media giant Pearson taps former Lilly CEO as chairman

Former Eli Lilly and Co. CEO Sidney Taurel has been named chairman of Pearson PLC, the London-based media and educational products giant announced Monday.

Taurel, 66, will replace Glen Moreno, who is stepping down Dec. 31 after more than 10 years in the position.

Taurel mugSidney Taurel

Taurel was chief executive of Eli Lilly from 1998 until 2008, and he remains chairman emeritus of the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical firm.

A Moroccan-born U.S. citizen, Taurel joined Lilly in 1971 as a marketing associate in Eli Lilly International and worked his way up to president in 1996 and to CEO in 1998. He spent 15 of his 37 years at Lilly in international assignments, including stints in London and Brazil.

“This is an important time to be joining the world’s leading education company,” Taurel said in a written statement. “Pearson has a great purpose at its heart—to help more people progress in their lives through learning. I am looking forward to helping the Pearson management team develop our strategy and deliver long-term value for our students, customers and our shareholders.”

Taurel is a currently board director and chairman of the compensation committee at both IBM Corp. and McGraw Hill Financial Inc. He also is senior adviser at global investment bank Moelis & Co., and an advisory board member at pharmaceutical firms Takeda Pharmaceutical and Almirall.

Pearson, the largest education company and the book publisher in the world, has about 35,000 employees. The 171-year-old company had revenue of $7.5 billion in 2014.

“We are delighted to have in Sidney a new chair with strong experience of global business and markets, used to leading in a complex regulatory environment,” Moreno said in written remarks. “Our search process … has identified a business leader in tune with Pearson’s values and culture.”

Taurel joins Pearson during a somewhat rocky time for the company. It has issued a string of profit warnings in recent years while restructuring from a multi-business conglomerate into a business focused on digital services and emerging markets in education.

On Oct. 21, Pearson suffered a 16 percent decrease in its stock price, its biggest one-day drop since the stock market crash in 1987. The falloff came after the company said full-year profit would come in at the bottom of its forecast due to “challenging market conditions.”

It blamed lower enrollments at colleges in the United States and a drop in textbook purchases in parts of South Africa. The company does about 60 percent of its business in the United States.

"Sidney knows global markets well, particularly North America, having led a large, complex business through a period of great change,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said. “He shares Pearson's values and sense of purpose, and I look forward to working with him.”


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