Peace Stays Experian CEO as GUS Mulls Sale

John Peace, the CEO of Experian Group, Nottingham, England, will retain that title when he begins his new role in January as the CEO of Experian’s British parent company, Great Universal Stores PLC, a GUS spokesman told DM News this week.

“At the moment, he is combining the roles as chief executive of Experian and chief executive of Great Universal Stores,” said Bruno Rost, the GUS spokesman. “There are no plans to replace him at Experian.”

Also, despite speculation that GUS, a Manchester-based global conglomerate with operations in retail, catalogs and information services, would sell its Experian information-services business, Rost said the company is not yet ready to make such a move.

“That’s always been the line [that Experian could eventually be sold],” he said. “But one of the things it needs is a baseline of performance… and that needs to be basically two years.”

He said that although GUS’s information-services business, formerly called CCN, has a long track record of strong performance in the United Kingdom, it has not yet proven its viability since its merger with TRW Information Systems & Services in the United States and its relatively recent acquisitions of MetroMail and Direct Tech, also in the U.S.

The Experian business last year generated revenues of about 900 million British pounds, or about $1.48 billion, and profits of about 192 million British pounds, or about $315 million. That represents about 40 percent of the total profit at GUS last year.

GUS acquired Experian in 1996 for about $1.71 billion, combining it with its own information-services business. Since early this year, however, GUS’s stock has lost nearly half of its value, and the company has said that it might eventually consider splitting into two divisions to boost its share price.

“That’s certainly something we would consider,” Rost said. “There are various possibilities,” he added, including a scenario in which GUS would sell a partial interest in Experian and retain an ownership stake. It was not immediately clear whether a sale of Experian would have any impact on the company’s North American business, which is based in Orange, CA.

Meanwhile Peace, who joined GUS in 1970 and helped lead the merger of its CCN division with TRW Information Systems and Services in 1996, said he would focus on building value for shareholders by concentrating on the company’s two core divisions – catalog retailing and information services.

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