Pearson Should Sell the Financial Times

On what the news stories all insist on calling the "sidelines" of

the Future of Business Media conference I had a very interesting conversation

with Ien Cheng, the publisher of I told him he should start blogging;

he told me that everything he said was off the record. So much for transparency.

In order to get some on-the-record commentary about the FT, then, I asked a

panel of dealmakers about the Financial Times and whether it really belongs

as a part of Pearson. Steven Rattner kicked off by saying that there are three

global English-language business newspapers: the WSJ, the FT, and the International

Herald Tribune. Three’s too many, he said, implying that eventually there will

be only two. That would either happen through acquisition – the FT did

actually look at making a bid for the WSJ, but decided the price was too high

– or else it will happen through attrition, if the NYT can’t find a way

of making the IHT profitable.

Then Lauren Rich Fine stepped in, and said that "something has to happen

with the FT." While Pearson owns a lot of very good properties, she says,

the whole is less than the sum of its parts. And while I can’t tell you what

Cheng told me, I can tell you what he didn’t say, which is (a) that

Pearson has deep pockets and is willing to make a substantial investment in

the FT; or that (b) the FT gets much if any benefit from being part of the Pearson


My view

is known:

that Pearson should sell the FT to Thomson-Reuters. But I don’t think I’ll be

giving away any secrets if I say that Cheng is decidedly bullish on the future

of the FT as an independent entity.

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