The Men and Women Who Run Pearson

Management can make all the difference to a company's success and thus its share price.

The best companies are those run by talented and experienced leaders with strong vested interests in the success of the business, held in check by a board with sound financial and business acumen. Some of the worst investments to hold are those run by executives collecting fat rewards as the underlying business goes to pot.

In this series, I'm assessing the boardrooms of companies within the FTSE 100. I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not. Today I am looking at Pearson  (LSE: PSON.L  ) (NYSE: PSO  ) , where Dame Marjorie Scardino has just announced she is standing down as CEO after 16 years.

Here are the key directors:

Director

Position

Glen Moreno

(non-exec) Chairman

Dame Marjorie Scardino

Chief Executive (until Dec. 31, 2012)

John Fallon

Chief Executive (from Jan. 1, 2013)

Robin Freestone

Chief Financial Officer

Will Ethridge

Chief Executive, North American Education

Rona Fairhead

Chief Executive, Financial Times group

John Makinson

Chief Executive, Penguin Group

Dame Marjorie is, currently, one of just four women who run FTSE 100 companies. During her tenure she has reshaped Pearson, shedding such diverse assets as Madame Tussauds and Lazards, and leading a thrust into the U.S. education market. She tripled sales and profits, and is a hard act to follow.

The possible sale of the FT and/or Penguin is subject to permanent speculation, while at the same time the company has a substantial cash pile that could be used for acquisitions. Dame Marjorie hinted that the big strategic decisions facing the company were factors behind the timing of the handover.

Edexcel
John Fallon was previously chief executive of Pearson's international (i.e., non-North American) education division, which is a major growth engine targeting emerging markets but includes the U.K.'s somewhat controversial exam board Edexcel. He joined Pearson in 1997 as director of communications, and has a corporate affairs and communications background -- unusual for a FTSE 100 CEO.

A former Citigroup investment banker and CEO of Fidelity, Glen Moreno was appointed chairman in 2005. He has since served as acting chairman of UK Financial Investments, the government's bank holding company, and as deputy chairman of Lloyds Banking.

Robin Freestone joined Pearson as deputy CFO in 2004, becoming CFO in 2006. He is a career finance professional who sits on the ICAEW's Financial Reporting Committee and is deputy chairman of the Hundred Group of FTSE 100 finance directors.

The three divisional CEOs have strong CVs, particularly Rona Fairhead, who was formerly Pearson's CFO and who sits on the board of HSBC, chairing its risk committee. However, it must be rather strange in the boardroom at times, with two of the divisions potentially up for sale.

Pearson's impressive non-execs include a former CEO of Unilever and finance director of Vodafone. However, they do not outnumber the chairman plus executives.

I analyze management teams from five different angles to help work out a verdict. Here's my assessment:

1. Reputation. Management CVs and track record.

Strong.

Score: 4/5

2. Performance. Success at the company.

Successful.

Score: 4/5

3. Board composition. Skills, experience, balance.

Great balance.

Score: 4/5

4. Remuneration. Fairness of pay, link to performance.

Expensive board.

Score: 3/5

5. Directors' holdings, compared to their pay.

Execs have very substantial holdings.

Score: 5/5

Overall, Pearson scores 20 out of 25, a very good result bearing in mind the change of leadership.

I've collated all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page.

Buffett's favorite FTSE share
Let me finish by adding that legendary investor Warren Buffett has always looked for impressive management teams when pinpointing which shares to buy. So I think it's important to tell you that the billionaire stock-picker has recently acquired a substantial stake in a prominent FTSE 100 company.

A special free report from The Motley Fool -- "The One UK Share Warren Buffett Loves" -- explains Buffett's purchase and investing logic in full.

And Buffett, don't forget, rarely invests outside his native United States, which to my mind makes this British blue chip -- and its management -- all the more attractive. So why not download the report today? It's totally free and comes with no further obligation.

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Tony owns shares in Unilever, Vodafone, and HSBC but no other shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Unilever. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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