Ian Smith, the chief executive of Reed Elsevier (the international media group that also owns the LexisNexis business) yesterday left the company after just eight months. His departure – by 'mutual agreement' – is with immediate effect. The company's share price also fell by 4%, with immediate effect. A company spokesman said it was felt being CEO “wasn’t the right role for him (Smith) in the current economic conditions,” – an explanation The Times today describes as “far from convincing”.

Smith, who will be replaced by Elsevier CEO (the Dutch part of the group) Erik Engstrom, took over in March after former chief executive Sir Crispin Davis (generally reckoned to be the only man who knew the plan) retired. Citigroup commented in a note “Under Mr. Smith, Reed Elsevier had half a strategy, now we have none and we expect this to weigh on the shares.”