The sale of the Financial Times

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On 23 July it was announced that Pearson had sold the Financial Times to one of Japan’s biggest media groups Nikkei for £844m. Since this announcement Pearson has also sold its 50% stake in the Economist Group, publisher of the Economist, to existing shareholders for £469m in cash.

The famous pink paper has an editorial team of 580 journalists across more than 50 locations worldwide. The first issue was published in 1888 at only 4 pages, and was bought by Pearson in 1957.

The Financial Times had itself reported that it was in advanced negotiations with German media house Axel Springer, following a year of talks. In comparison, the deal with Nikkei was struck in only 5 weeks. Nikkei’s existing portfolio includes Japan’s biggest selling newspaper The Nikkei, which has 3.12m subscribers.

Pearson had owned the FT for 58 years but over recent years has been focussing on becoming the world’s largest education company, and had already sold many of its media assets such as The French media group Les Echos.

The £844m price tag represents around 43 times the operating income of the Financial Times. The sale includes the paper, FT.com and other titles such as The Banker and Investors Chronicle. It does not include the headquarters in Southwark, which the FT will remain in for another year.

The sale of the FT and the Economist comes at a time of significant upheaval in the media world, with traditional newspapers seeing print circulations steadily decline and increased investment in digital offerings. Paid circulation of the FT currently stands at 737,000, with less than 75,000 being in the UK. Digital users make up nearly 75% of subscribers, compared to 24% in 2010.

Under the ownership of Pearson the FT infamously did not consult with their owners about its editorial content, and as a result the content of the paper remained entirely editorially independent. Since the sale questions have been raised about the FT protecting its editorial independence, and in a statement from three former editors it was noted ‘there is nothing at present in the governance of the publication to guarantee the continued independence of the editor’.

Tsuneo Kita, chairman and CEO of Nikkei, said: ‘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. We share the same journalistic values. Together, we will strive to contribute to the development of the global economy.’

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