Reed Elsevier chief executive quits after eight months

Ian Smith, the chief executive of business publisher Reed Elsevier, has resigned with immediate effect after little more than eight months in the post.

Reed Elsevier, publisher titles including Variety and New Scientist, made an announcement to the City this morning that Smith resigned “with mutual agreement” and has stepped down today from the company’s board.

Elsevier chief executive Erik Engstrom has been appointed as his replacement.

In a short message of appreciation chairman Anthony Habgood thanked Smith and said he’d been charged with the “difficult task of leading Reed Elsevier during unprecedented turbulent economic times.”

A company spokesman told Reuters that Smith had been the wrong man for the current economic climate.

The spokesman said: “Ian and the board decided it wasn’t the right role for him in the current economic circumstances. Erik has proven sector experience. There is no disagreement on strategy.”

Smith, the former head of construction firm Taylor Woodrow, joined Reed Elsevier in January before succeeding Sir Crispin Davis following his retirement in March.

The company failed to find a suitable buyer for its trade magazine division, Reed Business Information, late last year and then took it off the market as it instigated a heavy cost cutting across its businesses as advertising revenue dwindled because of the recession.

Smith took the decision in July to issue new shares that equated to just short of ten per pent of the company’s issued capital to help reduce its debt – the move raised more than £800m from investors but it was not a popular move.

Reed also warned today that 2010 operating margins would likely be modestly reduced and that advertising and promotion markets remained ‘particularly impacted by global recession.”

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