Mr Fallon revealed his plans to retire late last year after a string of profit warnings that have knocked confidence in the education publishing company, which is midway through a painful transition to digital products and services.
The FTSE 100 company on Monday said Mr Bird, who joined Pearson as a non-executive director in May, is expected to take over in October. Mr Fallon will remain as chief executive until that time, and stay on at the company as an adviser until the end of the year.
Sidney Taurel, chair of Pearson, said Mr Bird was “extremely well placed to continue the transformation of Pearson” due to his “experience and skills”.
Confidence in Pearson’s transition has faltered as the company has struggled to offset the rapidly shrinking market for textbooks with revenue from its new digital products and services. Its share price, which has remained roughly flat during the pandemic, has more than halved since Mr Fallon took over in 2013.
Pearson was also dragged into the UK’s exams fiasco last week when it was forced to recalculate BTec results, withdrawing vocational qualifications for nearly half a million young people at the last minute.
Mr Bird oversaw a large expansion of Walt Disney International after he joined in 2004, and Pearson said he made it more fit for a digital age.
“He was at the root of Disney’s development of its direct-to-consumer strategy, marketing the company’s content as a service directly to the end user, which has become a key growth driver for the company,” Pearson said.
Mr Bird said he was “delighted” to join Pearson at an “exciting time for the company” adding that he saw “enormous potential across the company’s businesses”.