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Originally a firm of builders and contractors, of Bradford and later Westminster; later a family company holding interests in a diverse range of businesses (post WWII).
1844 Began as a small brickmaking and contracting company, founded by Samuel Pearson.
At some point became Samuel Pearson and Son
1850s George Pearson, Samuel's eldest son, was running the contracting business in Bradford
1861 George employed 32 labourers, 14 masons, 8 boys; lived at Bowling, Bradford
1871 George was a builder and contractor employing 200
c. 1871 George's son, Weetman Dickinson Pearson, left school at sixteen and was apprenticed to the family firm.
1877 Weetman was sent to the USA to seek new business, especially orders for the bricks, tiles, and piping whose manufacture was a major concern of the firm.
1879 Partnership dissolved, Samuel Pearson and Son, Bradford, contractors
1879 Samuel retired and gave his share in the firm to Weetman, who became the sole partner of his father, George Pearson (1834-1899).
1881 George was a contractor, employing 68 men, and also sanitary tube and brick maker
1881 Started construction of the Bentinck Dock, Lynn
1884 Headquarters moved to London. Under Weetman's leadership, Pearson became one of the world's largest building contractors, working in Europe, China and Latin America.
Late 80s: Major dock construction projects at Milford Haven (1885-90), Southampton (1886–91), and Halifax, Nova Scotia (1886–9).
1889 Won major contracts in the United States (to build the Hudson River tunnel) and Mexico (to construct the Grand Canal to drain the swamps of Mexico City) which secured Pearson's leading role as a British contractor.
Acquired and reconstructed the Wouldham Cement Works for the purpose of manufacturing the cement required for their various contracts.
1895 Had been involved in the Madrid and Portugal Direct Railway but had encountered difficulty in being paid
1901 Public issue of shares
1900s Built the four East River tunnels connecting New York with Long Island for the Pennsylvania, New York, and Long Island Railroad Company.
As a result of the involvement in construction work in Mexico, oil seepages were discovered. In April 1901 Weetman, spending a night in Laredo, saw something of the large oil discoveries in the Texas oilfields. He began to acquire oil concessions.
1903 Established a generating station at a cost of £2,400,000 in the mountains of Puebla, where a n abundance of water power was hoped to be found to transmit a current of 80,000 horse-power to the city for commercial uses.
By 1907 the firm owned 600,000 acres of land in Mexico. Pearson invested heavily in refining facilities and shipping but found relatively little oil which put them in a precarious financial position.
1908 Acquired the Westminster Gazette, as a political move to support Liberal views
1910 Pearson's drillers struck oil on an enormous scale in Mexico.
1913 Contractors for the work of a new Dock adjoining the Victoria and Albert Dock.
By 1914 Mexico had become the third largest oil producing country in the world, and Pearsons controlled about 60 per cent of this production. Created a large, vertically integrated business which controlled oil production, refining, distribution, and selling.
1919 Pearsons continued to search for oil in a range of countries, including Britain, where the company discovered oil in Derbyshire as a result of exploration on behalf of the government
1919 Oil discoveries in the USA; Weetman participated in the formation of the Amerada Petroleum Corporation. Contractor for the Sennar Dam project in the Sudan.
Owned Westminster Press and Whitehall Securities
1934 Sir Clarendon Hyde, partner in the business, died.
c.1935 Weetman's second son, (Bernard) Clive Pearson, became chairman.
Discontinued contracting activities.
1941 Their holding in Amerada Petroleum was compulsorily acquired by the British Government.
1940s The company's main aviation activities were nationalized, as were its coal mines and electricity undertakings in the West of England.
1954 Clive's nephew, Weetman John Churchill Pearson, became increasingly involved in the affairs of the family company, taking over as chairman when his uncle retired in 1954. The company had a controlling interest in Lazards, the merchant bank, and a variety of other financial and industrial investments, including Westminster Press, a chain of provincial newspapers. Over the next twenty-three years, the company was transformed by acquisition into a broadly based and highly profitable industrial group by buying well-managed firms which had a strong position in niche markets and which were capable of being developed over the long term.
1957 A key purchase was the Financial Times
1969 Became a public company with 5 divisions of roughly equal profit contribution - Banking and Finance, Investment Trusts, Newspapers and Publishing, Oil, Industrial. The company was principally concerned with management of the assets in which it was invested.. Oil interests in Canada and USA were transferred to Ashland Oil and Refining Co, in exchange for an interest in that publically quoted company. Several of the subsidiaries were quoted at the time of the flotation of the parent company, including S. Pearson (Publishers) .
1977 Weetman John Churchill Pearson retired from the chairmanship.
1994 Whitehall Securities was renamed Pearson Professional Holdings Ltd.
1998 Sold many businesses, including The Tussauds Group, as preparation for a concentration on education. Completed the largest acquisition in Pearson’s history - the Simon and Schuster businesses. This tripled the size of Pearson Education making it one of the world’s leading suppliers of the tools for education. Also over the previous 2 years, the FT Group had increased its profits by 33% while doubling the investment in its future growth. Penguin and Pearson Television were both half as big again as they had been two years previously.