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Tierney Resignation Sparks Management Shift at Thomson
Posted On November 25, 2002
News UpdateOn December 5, Reed Elsevier announced that it has appointed Pat Tierney to the new role of chief executive officer of its global education publishing division. Tierney will join the company at the start of January 2003 and will be based at the U.S. corporate headquarters in New York. He will be a main board director reporting to Crispin Davis, Reed Elsevier's CEO. Tierney will be responsible for the U.S. schools publishing and testing businesses, the U.K. education business, and the international schools publishing business.
With the words "Colorado is having the best snow in 2 years, and I'm off for Vail," Patrick Tierney, current head of Thomson Financial, ended his career at Thomson Corp. Tierney's resignation stemmed from a combination of personal issues and a desire to meet new professional challenges. With Tierney's announced departure, Richard Harrington, Thomson's president and CEO, took the opportunity to shift the top executives in three of the four major groups that comprise the giant corporation. Making the moves at this time guaranteed that all the executives would have time to get up to speed for the 2003 strategic planning.

David Shaffer, currently president and CEO of Thomson Learning, will become CEO of Thomson Financial, replacing Tierney. In turn, Ronald Schlosser, currently president and CEO of Thomson Scientific and Healthcare, will become president and CEO of Thomson Learning. Robert Cullen, currently president and CEO of Thomson Learning International, will become president and CEO of Thomson Scientific and Healthcare. Brian Hall will remain head of the Legal and Regulatory Group. Each executive reports directly to Harrington.

Harrington has long espoused a strategy of executive cross-training in the vast Thomson empire. The company has some $7.2 billion in annual sales and an estimated 20 million customers.

Harrington said, "All Thomson executives are well-grounded in leveraging content and technology, in accessing best practices from throughout Thomson, and in building effective information solutions."

The changes in management mark no overall strategic policy changes, according to Harrington. For example, Thomson will continue to focus on small, "tactical," "fold-in" acquisitions rather than large ones for the immediate future. These remarks seemed designed to scotch the rumors that Thomson Financial might look to buy Reuters.

Shaffer, the new leader of Thomson Financial, is already an executive vice president with a seat on Thomson's board of directors. He moved from chief operating officer at Thomson headquarters into the Thomson Learning position when Thomson acquired Harcourt's publishing assets. Schlosser led the integration of Harcourt content and technology into the Thomson Learning operation.

Rumors have it that Shaffer may be nearing retirement and that his move to Thomson Financial marks a transition phase there. Rumors also tag Sharon Rowlands, currently chief operating officer of Thomson Financial, as the next in line to head Thomson Financial. The press release announcing the current management changes indicated that Rowlands would have expanded responsibilities and would add the title of president to her COO title. At present, Rowlands is the highest-ranking woman in Thomson corporate history. Tierney praised her to the skies, saying that she was the best COO he had ever worked with and calling her a real star who could go higher.

Schlosser has been with Thomson for 7 years and has been head of the Scientific and Healthcare group since 1999. His career experience focused on migrating print products to electronic format. In a Webcast announcing the changes (, Harrington indicated that Thomson Learning was "the only group with less than 50 percent of its revenues coming from electronic products." One assumes that Schlosser will move to change that.

With Cullen leaving Thomson Learning International to replace Schlosser at Thomson Scientific and Healthcare, the former will be lead by Ronald Dunn, currently president and CEO of the Academic Group. Dunn told me that he expects the name of the group to change to Academic and International Group.

Cullen has worked at Thomson for 18 years. He has significantly increased revenue and operating income for the international group and expanded global e-learning with the launch of Universitas 21 Global. Apparently, Cullen made a very strong positive impression on Harrington during a recent business trip to Asia. Thomson cognoscenti refer to Cullen as "fast-track" and another "rising star." Thomson Scientific and Healthcare is the smallest of Thomson's groups. Cullen has a highly regarded management team backing him up in Mike Tansey and Rick Noble.

Tierney headed up Knight-Ridder Information (aka Dialog) before moving to Thomson. He will stay with the company until the end of the year to assist in the transition.

Harrington saluted Tierney, saying: "During his tenure, Pat helped us build Thomson Financial into one of the top information and solutions providers in the industry today. Under his leadership, we significantly increased the scale and scope of our Thomson Financial business and began the development of sophisticated suites of new product offerings. In addition, Pat was critical in managing Thomson Financial through its darkest period on September 11, 2001. We thank him for his efforts on behalf of Thomson and wish him well."

Though sales at Thomson Financial have dropped 3 percent, making this group the only one at Thomson posting a loss (as reported in the recent 3Q financial results), most commentators agree that the blame lies with the poor economy and the crisis throughout the financial services industry. Steve Arnold of Arnold Information Technologies pointed out the daunting task of trying to sell monthly subscriptions to high-priced financial products when Wall Street is firing workers by the thousands. "Do the math," said Arnold. Tierney's last major action with Thomson Financial has apparently brought the group a $1 billion contract with Merrill Lynch, which won over a competing bid from Reuters.

Regarding his future plans, Tierney said: "I'm looking for a chance to build an operation, not necessarily a turnaround. I want something interesting and challenging in the information space. I felt that we [Thomson Financial] were doing well in our environment. We had a good management team. I felt that I could leave with a good conscience. And I wanted one last chance to try something new."

From Tierney's tone, it looks like one could expect to see him back in the news—and soon.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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