LONDON Rona Fairhead, chief executive of Pearson's Financial Times Group, is to stand down from the pink-paged newspaper division, in a move announced almost two months after she was overlooked for the top job at Pearson.
Fairhead will follow Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino out of the British media and education group, leaving in April four months after Scardino steps down at the end of the year after 16 years in charge.
Scardino will be replaced by John Fallon, the chief executive of Pearson's International Education division, and the move has sparked speculation about whether the group could eventually sell off the FT arm.
Analysts have also speculated that other executives at Pearson could leave after they too failed to get the top job.
"I would imagine it's because she didn't get Marjorie's job," one analyst, who asked not to be named said. "Also, the FT Group is a much smaller job than it used to be due to the disposals it has made and it also doesn't look like it will be an area for investment in the immediate future.
"So that head job is perhaps less attractive than it used to be and that, mixed with the disappointment from the job, is probably why she is going."
Fairhead said she had decided to step down after 12 years at Pearson, with the leadership transition a natural moment to move on.
"I will miss Pearson deeply but will cheer from the sidelines as its new leadership team develops and evolves Pearson's successful strategy and culture," she said. "I am very proud to have been part of it, but am ready to tackle a new set of challenges."
The FTSE 100 group announced in October that it would merge its Penguin Books unit with Bertelsmann's Random House to create the world's leading consumer book publisher.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Rhys Jones and Helen Massy-Beresford)