Pearson’s 60yr ownership of FT comes to end as Nikkei takes over

© Peter Nicholls
Nikkei, Japan’s largest media company is to acquire the FT Group from Pearson for $1.3 billion. The Japanese outbid Germany’s Axel Springer “with an eleventh hour offer,” says the FT.

Both Nikkei and Axel Springer wanted to enter the British market. Axel Springer has been negotiating the acquisition for almost a year, while Nikkei started talks slightly over a month ago. The FT says the Germans did not know Nikkei had offered a better deal until 15 minutes before the sale with Pearson was announced.

“I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world. Our motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality, is very close to that of the FT,” said Nikkei CEO Tsuneo Kita.

Nikkei, has a 3 million morning and 1.6 million evening circulation, and is Asia's largest independent business media group. However, it has struggled to expand from its home market.

Pearson’s former chief executive, Marjorie Scardino is known for saying the paper would be sold “over my dead body.” Her successor, John Fallon, who took over in January 2013, was less hardnosed.

“We’ve reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company,” he said on Thursday.

In recent years, Pearson has become more focused on its education business, which is the largest in the world. As a result, it has sold various business assets, including French media group Les Echos.

The deal includes the FT newspaper, FT.com website, and The Banker and Investors Chronicle titles. The deal, however, doesn’t cover the London headquarters at One Southwark Bridge and the FT Group’s 50 per cent stake in The Economist Group, the publisher of The Economist news magazine.