Clutching his pay-off, Sir Crispin bids farewell to Cinderella of Sutton

What’s to say about Reed Elsevier’s decision to pull the sale of Reed Business Information? As far as the eye can see, the result is a mess. 

For RBI’s employees, it’s a case of back to the future. Here’s a backhanded assessment of what’s on the horizon from Crispin Davies, the outgoing chief executive of Reed Elsevier:

“Our continuing ownership of RBI will in no way distract us from our strategic focus on delivering authoritative content through leading brands, driving online solutions, improving cost efficiency and continuing to reshape and strengthen our portfolio.” 

The disdain is almost palpable. No doubt Davies’s disappointment will raise a sardonic chuckle among RBI’s employees. They might work in Sutton, but their psychological state must be deepest Millwall.

Oh, and Reed Elsevier still wants to sell the business — “in the medium term when conditions are more favourable”.

Charming. It’s left to the author of Business Media Blog to spell out what probably awaits Reed Elsevier’s in-house Cinderella in the New Year:

They should also be closing titles, downsizing the scale of the business and its overheads, re thinking how their magazine model works and run the place as if it were owned by private equity. . . This will be very counter culture RBI management.

As BMB points out, RBI’s new chief executive Keith Jones will have every incentive to get his hands dirty -– and soon. He’ll need to demonstrate his mettle to the Sir Crispin Davies’s successor, who is expected to start work in March.

To boot, there will be recriminations. At Paid Content, Rafat Ali describes the atmosphere inside RBI as “horribly depressing”.

The attempt to sell RBI, one of his sources suggests, was also “horribly bungled”. The list of cock-ups is long.

For Crispin Davies, this is a poor finish to a largely successful decade at Reed Elsevier.

Not that he’ll need much cheering up. Next year, at the age of 60, Davies becomes eligible to retire with a pension that equates to 45% of his £1.2m salary.

He may also depart Reed Elsevier with a bonus payment of up to £1.3m under his belt. That’s quite aside from the options to buy roughly 3m shares that Davies has amassed over the years.

No doubt RBI’s employees will be foremost among those who wish Davies well in retirement. 

Footnote: Kudos to the anonymous author of Business Media Blog, who was sceptical from the start about the prospects of selling off RBI. Having argued otherwise, I’m tipping my hat in BMB’s general direction.

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