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Minick-Scokalo’s star in the ascendant after Pearson picks her boss as next CEO?

October 3, 2012

What now for upwardly mobile executive Tamara Minick-Scokalo? I ask because her immediate boss, John Fallon, has just emerged as the future chief executive of Pearson, owner of – among other things – the Financial Times and Penguin.

When last encountered on this blog, Minick-Scokalo – for most of her career a Procter & Gamble executive, but latterly occupying high-octane posts at Cadbury and Kraft – had managed to secure a plum job at Pearson as president of the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Caribbean elements of its international education business. She reported directly to Fallon, who was chief executive of all areas of the business outside the USA.

In one sense the choice of Fallon to succeed Majorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson for the last 16 years, is a great surprise. He’s not even on the main Pearson board yet. What’s more he’s essentially a marcoms man, having served as director of corporate affairs at Powergen before joining Pearson in 1997, and in a variety of comms roles in the public sector before that. The more usual recruiting ground for FTSE 100 company chief executives is the finance department. And, as it happens, Pearson has the perfect paper candidate: Rona Fairhead, chief executive of Financial Times Group. Right age (about 50, the same age as Fallon); right sex; right background, as former chief financial officer of Pearson; and already a main board member to boot.

So why Fallon? Look at his record. It cannot be an accident that in the five years he occupied Minick-Scokalo’s current role, and the four since in which he has been chief executive of the division, international education has become the mainstay of Pearson’s reputation – not to mention its credibility with shareholders. For once, I cannot put it better than the company statement on the subject:

“With more than 15,000 people in 70 countries, this division is fundamental to Pearson’s growth strategy. Under John’s leadership, international education sales have increased from £322m to £1.4bn and profits from £12m to almost £200m in the past decade.”

It should be added that Fallon has also demonstrated a shrewd talent for acquisitions  – a reassuring quality in any future leader of a global company. These include the Wall Street English education business and the China-based Global Education and Technology Group. By way of perspective, profits across the ramshackle Pearson empire  as a whole totalled £942m in 2011.

Fallon seems likely to continue Scardino’s strategy of pruning Pearson’s over-extended interests – which at one time included investment bank Lazards, one of the best vineyards in the world and Madame Tussauds. Next on the chopping board may be the Financial Times itself. Certainly Fallon did nothing to reassure anxious hacks on the subject. When pressed on whether his appointment makes it more likely that Pearson will seek to dispose of the FT Group, he merely observed: “I very much recognise and value the FT as a valuable part of the company.” I’ll take that as a yes then, particularly from a former PR man. One more reason, perhaps, why Fairhead – very much at the heart of the FT – didn’t get the top job.

But what’s bad news for the FT may be very good news for Minick-Scokalo’s career prospects. She seems in prime position to claim Fallon’s former hot seat. Let’s put it this way: if she doesn’t get the job, she will probably be disappointed enough to leave Pearson’s employ.

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Tamara Minick-Scokalo resurfaces in top role at Pearson

February 22, 2012

The career of high-flying international executive Tamara Minick-Scokalo has, it seems, become a staple feature of this blog. So it might be of interest to note that she has just landed another top job.

Pearson, owner among other things of The Financial Times and Penguin, has picked her as president Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean of its education business.

Minick-Scokalo, who is currently based in Geneva, has had a somewhat chequered résumé in recent years. Twenty years into a marketing career at Procter & Gamble, she briefly switched to senior European marketing roles at EJ Gallo and Elizabeth Arden before surfacing at Cadbury as head of global commerce in 2007. That move was a success, but the subsequent appointment to president of Cadbury Europe was not: she left less than a year later. Only to emerge triumphant and phoenix-like, in 2010, as the new president of chocolate Europe, following Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury.

But the title was an illusion, and carried much less weight than her previous operational role at Cadbury. Minick-Scokalo – like other senior ex-Cadburyites – seems to have found Kraft excessively bureaucratic and the idea of a career centered in Zurich frankly unappetising.

She left less than 6 months later, and – interestingly for such a corporate creature – set up as an entrepreneur. Trax, which is what she founded, is an IT/sales and marketing operation specialising in retail. What will happen to it now, I have no idea.

The international education division, headed by chief executive John Fallon, is viewed as one of Pearson’s most aggressively expanding operations. It has made several large scale acquisitions in recent years, including the Wall Street education business and the China-based Global Education and Technology Group. Minick-Scokalo clearly has experience of corporate integration at the highest level. Nevertheless, her marketing pedigree is probably more in demand at Pearson.


iPad – the newspaper industry’s false messiah

May 26, 2010

Personally, I blame the iPad. Its imminent launch here seems to have stimulated a bout of weltschmerz among newspaper proprietors, who are now outdoing each other in the gloominess of their predictions about the end of the Gutenberg era (c1453-2015, RIP).

Latest to join the swelling chorus is Pearson, owner of the Financial Times. Pearson’s director of global content standards Madi Solomon has come up with the rather snappy phrase “the sunset of print”, which FT executives expect to happen in about 5 years’ time. If anything, the 5-year estimate is a tad on the optimistic side. It could have been sooner but the financial crisis, and people’s avid interest in it, has artificially prolonged the time horizon.

Rusbridger: Prophet of gloom

Put it this way, the FT won’t be investing in any more printing presses. And nor will the Guardian or Times Newspapers (as it is still quaintly called). Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has long claimed he felt “in his bones” that new printing presses installed at the time of the Berliner relaunch (2005) would be the last. But he originally scoped in 20 more years of production. Now he reckons that was vastly optimistic. John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times, also predicts that his presses, installed in 2008, will be the newspaper’s last. For a fuller litany of pessimism, consult this page in PaidContent.

I hesitate to voice dissent, particularly when the consensus is so eminent, but isn’t all this pessimism a little overdone? An old adage about “cart” and “horse” comes to mind. The cart I have in mind is the so-called electronic reader, of which Kindle, the Sony Reader and iPad are the most successful examples to date.

First though, let’s go back to a fundamental issue: why do people read newspapers, as opposed to glean their information from the internet? Granted age and social conditioning may have something to do with it. But is not also true that newspapers, and for that matter most magazines, are a more enjoyable, tactile medium? The internet is excellent for any kind of search-based activity, but it can scarcely be described as a “great read”. Ah, you say, but that’s where this new, reader-friendly technology provided by iPad and its like comes in. It will make electronic browsing fun – once little glitches like flicker, eye-strain and inadequate battery life have been ironed out (as they inevitably will be in a few years’ time). No one, it seems, is subscribing more enthusiastically to this techno-salvation than newspaper proprietors themselves. In it they discern a form of commercial lifeline – a means of making internet joyriders pay for the colossal, but legitimately-engendered, costs of newsgathering – via licensed apps. A means, in short, of ditching the enormous financial burden of print and building a new and more viable commercial model.

I’d like to believe them right, but can’t bring myself to do so. There have been many annunciations over the past few years of the Coming One – the technical application that will enable us to transfer our loyalties effortlessly from paper to the electronic screen. Of those so far, the iPad holds the most promise. But, though ingenious and popular, it is likely to prove a false messiah – so far as the newspaper industry is concerned. For a start, the revenue stream from licensed products cannot possibly compete with those extracted from traditional newspapers (especially after Apple has taken its 30% cut), even if we allow for a reduced industry overhead. More importantly, what is the iPad for? Newspaper proprietors may read into it a form of salvation, but that matters little if punters don’t see it the same way. And the early indications from America are that they don’t.

Put another way, reading a newspaper via iPad is near the bottom of their user priorities. Printers, don’t despair: the press will be stuck with chopped-down trees for a good few years yet. Certainly more than five.

POSTSCRIPT. Such has been the momentum of Apple, which has just overtaken Microsoft as the world’s biggest technology company by market capitalisation, and such the success of its latest ‘tablet’ product, the iPad, that some experts are now writing the obituary of Google.

One such is Richard Holway who, in a recent presentation, claimed that a combination of Apple-sponsored apps and Facebook will “block out” Google’s sponsored search model by allowing consumers to go directly to brands and media owners.

Not so fast, says one reader of the article in which this vaulting claim appears. Sam Rothstein points out that a) nearly every phone will soon be a type of smartphone – most probably powered by a Google product, Android; b) Apple’s domination of its latest niche, the tablet, will face a similar challenge. A number of netbooks/tablets running Android are launching imminently.


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