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12.09.11 | Tom Tivnan
Oxford University Press c.e.o. Nigel Portwood has signalled a new strategic direction for the publisher by saying he will be looking to acquire other businesses more ambitiously.
Speaking in an exclusive interview in today’s Bookseller, Portwood said: “We’ve had a history of organic growth, but in my experience acquisitions are an effective way of achieving growth and acquiring new skills. So it is one of the questions I asked when I took the job: ‘Why haven’t we done more acquisitions?’ The university told me that it wasn’t really part of the culture.”
He continued: “Will we be able to make a transformative acquisition? We would be able to financially, but I’m not sure it is something we would want to do. I think we will be much like our successful competitors, like Pearson, who buy businesses that make sense, that add value, that they can absorb easily and don’t create or introduce significant risk.”
Portwood became chief executive in August 2009 after Henry Reece’s retirement. His previous roles include director of strategy at Pearson—where he bought and sold companies—and director of digital strategy for Penguin. A Cambridge University graduate, Portwood is also the first non-Oxonian to run OUP in its 425-year history.
In his first two years, Portwood has presided over the OUP’s most radical restructure in decades, folding its OUP UK, OUP US and Oxford Journals arms into one division, Global Academic Business. A new digital management structure has also been created, including the hiring of Pam Sutherland to the new role of chief information officer. Sutherland is responsible for all of OUP’s digital infrastructure.
In its 2010/11 results (the first full year under Portwood), OUP achieved a record turnover and after-tax profits of £648.6m (up from £611.9m in 09/10) and £113.9m (a rise from £90.8m).