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Outgoing Reed Elsevier CEO: ‘We Should Have Moved Earlier’ on RBI Sale

B-to-b group still ‘marked for sale.’



By Jason Fell
03/09/2009

A week before officially stepping down as chief executive of Reed Elsevier, Sir Crispin Davis said the London-based science and medical publisher should have put its b-to-b publishing unit, Reed Business Information, on the block about a year earlier than it did.

“In retrospect, we should have moved earlier but we really didn’t think we could sell both education and RBI well at the same time,” Davis said in an interview with the Financial Times. “If we’d known that this downturn was going to happen, we may have said it was worth the risk.”

Reed sold Harcourt Education businesses to Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep Group in 2007. It put RBI up for auction in February 2008 but took it off the block late last year, citing the down global markets.

Reed was hoping that proceeds from the sale of RBI would help offset the company’s $4.17 billion purchase of ChoicePoint, a risk analytics business. Bids for RBI were said to have fall from approximately $2 billion to $1 billion.

At the time, Reed said it would reconsider a sale “in the medium term,” when market conditions become “more favorable.” In his interview with the Financial Times, Davis said RBI is still “marked for sale.”

Ian Smith, former CEO of British construction, facilities management and engineering services firm Taylor Woodrow, will succeed Davis as CEO next week.

By Jason Fell
03/09/2009




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