LONDON • Italy's billionaire Agnelli family yesterday emerged as the largest investor in The Economist after Pearson sold its half in the 172-year-old magazine cherished by the political and business elite for £469 million (S$1 billion).
Exor, through which the family controls carmaker Fiat Chrysler, agreed to pay £287 million, boosting its share in the The Economist Group to 43.4 per cent from 4.7 per cent, and The Economist Group will pay £182 million to repurchase Pearson's remaining ordinary shares, the companies said.
The sale also raises the stake held by the Rothschild family to 26 per cent from 21 per cent.
Under chief executive John Elkann, 39, the Agnelli industrial clan that has controlled Fiat for more than a century is using high-profile assets to boost its clout in English- speaking cultures.
The Economist deal solidifies the Italian family's ties with other affluent families, from the Cadburys and Rothschilds to the Schroder banking dynasty, which also own stakes in the magazine group.
"The families who own these stakes see themselves as protectors of The Economist and its values," said media analyst Ian Whittaker at Liberum Capital in London.
"They see themselves as guarantors of the legacy."
The sale includes changes to Economist Group articles that stipulate a voting cap of 20 per cent for any single investor and a rule that no one person or company can own more than 50 per cent of the group's shares.
The Economist Group includes The Economist magazine, the Economist Intelligence Unit and titles such as CQ Roll Call.
The Economist Group reported £60 million in operating profit on sales of £328 million in the year through March.
The deal effectively ends London-based Pearson's role in news publishing after more than 50 years, following its recent sale of the FT Group to Japan's Nikkei for US$1.3 billion (S$1.8 billion).
Proceeds from the sale gives Pearson chief executive John Fallon extra firepower to turn around the company's education business, which includes textbooks and online services.