Our history

Reed Elsevier is a world leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across many industries.

We help scientists make new discoveries, lawyers win cases, doctors save lives, and executives forge commercial relationships with clients. We help insurance groups offer customers lower prices by assessing risk better, and save tax-payers and consumers money by helping governments and financial groups detect fraud.

In more ways than you might realize, Reed Elsevier is helping professionals across the globe make better decisions, get better results and be more productive.

Reed Elsevier has a long and proud heritage stretching back to the late 19th century and to the pioneering work of two industrialists, one English and one Dutch.

Albert E Reed laid the foundations of what was to become Reed International PLC, when in 1894 he set up a newsprint manufacturing plant at Tovil Mill in Kent, England. In 1903 the business became a public company under his own name. Through numerous acquisitions and mergers the company expanded into a wide variety of business activities ranging from paper and packaging, manufacture of building and decorative products and the publishing of newspapers, books and magazines. Reed International subsequently reorganised its portfolio in order to concentrate on its publishing and information businesses, disposing of its last manufacturing operations during 1987-88.

Jacobus George Robbers laid the foundations of what was to become Elsevier NV, when in 1880 a number of established Dutch publishers and booksellers pooled their interests. The company was named Elsevier after a 16th Century family of booksellers and printers who had, among other things, published the works of the Italian scientist, Galileo. After the Second World War the company diversified and achieved considerable growth as a publisher of scientific journals. In the 1970s Elsevier acquired major interests in Dutch national newspapers and commercial printing activities. During the 1980s Elsevier’s portfolio was reorganised in order to concentrate on professional and business publishing activities, resulting in the disposal of its commercial printing and trade book publishing operations.

In 1993 Reed International PLC (now renamed Reed Elsevier PLC) and Elsevier NV (now renamed Reed Elsevier NV) contributed their respective businesses to form Reed Elsevier. The combined businesses operate through two jointly owned companies: Reed Elsevier Group plc (which owns the publishing and information businesses); and Reed Elsevier Finance BV (which owns the financing activities).

Since the merger, Reed Elsevier has transformed itself into a leading provider of information solutions, successfully adapting to the online revolution. In 1995, just 16 per cent of revenues were electronic. By 2013, more than 80 per cent were electronic or face to face, the company’s chosen formats. Both Elsevier, the scientific, technical and medical publisher, and LexisNexis, our legal business, were pioneers in migrating print content online. Now they are increasingly deploying the group’s HPCC big data technology to harness their deep content to create analytical solutions and decision-making tools that help customers. LexisNexis Risk Solutions already uses this technology to support a business with revenues of more than $1.5bn. Some of the transition has been achieved by disposals, such as the sale of the consumer magazines and newspapers. At the same time, the group has successfully migrated many of its business titles, such as Flight International, Estates Gazette and Bankers Almanac into digital services.

Reed Elsevier is Europe’s largest media group by market capitalisation and has revenues of about £6bn.