Dame Marjorie to leave helm of Pearson

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It’s a sad day for female executives. Dame Marjorie Scardino, the straight-shooting Texan—and one of four women currently leading a FTSE 100 company—will step down as chief executive of Pearson PLC.

Scardino, or Dame Marjorie, 65, was the first woman to lead a FTSE 100 company, one of London’s longest-serving chief executives, and last year, the highest-paid female director of a FTSE 100 company. In 2002 she became Dame Marjorie, an honor bestowed by the Queen of England for services to the media industry. Scardino also became a British citizen.

But enough of this woman talk. Scardino took over Pearson, owner of the Financial Times and Penguin books, back in 1997 when it was a messy conglomerate with stakes in an investment bank, a television production company, a theme park, and London’s infamous wax museum, Madame Tussauds. Scardino dramatically streamlined the business to focus on financial and educational publishing.

On the financial publishing side, Pearson owns a 50% stake in the Economist Group, and has joint ventures in Russia and South Africa. The Financial Times is the jewel in its financial publishing crown. Scardino has long championed the newspaper, which some investors have encouraged selling. She famously once declared she would sell it “over my dead body.”

Under her leadership, sales at Pearson have tripled to nearly £6 billion ($9.7 billion), largely due to the expansion of its education business, while profits more than tripled to £942 million in 2011. Digital sales are up too, with more than half of revenues this year expected to come from digital and services businesses.

John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson’s International Education division, will replace her.