The Thomson Corporation was one of the world's largest information companies. Thomson was active in financial services, healthcare sectors, law, science & technology research, and tax & accounting sectors. The company operated through five segments (2007 onwards): Thomson Financial, Thomson Healthcare, Thomson Legal, Thomson Scientific, and Thomson Tax & Accounting.
Until 2007, Thomson was also one of the world's leading providers of higher education textbooks, academic information solutions and reference materials. On October 26, 2006, Thomson announced the proposed sale of its Thomson Learning assets. In May 2007, Thomson Learning was acquired by Apax Partners and subsequently renamed Cengage Learning in July. The Thomson Learning brand was used through the end of August, 2007.
Subsequently, on October 15, 2007, Educational Testing Service (ETS), the world leader in educational research and assessment, finalized acquisition of Thomson's Prometric. Thomson sold its global network of testing centers in 135 countries, for a reported $435 million. Prometric now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of ETS.
On May 15, 2007, The Thomson Corporation reached an agreement with Reuters to combine the two companies, a deal valued at $17.2 billion. On 17 April 2008 the new company was created under the name of Thomson Reuters. The new head of Thomson Reuters is Tom Glocer, the former head of Reuters.
Although officially a Canadian company, Thomson was run from its operational headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. It remained Canadian owned.
In the 1960s, Thomson's publishing realm expanded further to include Thomson Publication (UK), a consumer magazine and book publishing house, and the prestigious The Times of London. In 1965, Thomson Newspapers, Ltd. was formed as a publicly traded company in Canada. Roy Thomson's prolific endeavors in publishing had earned him a hereditary title, Lord Thomson of Fleet. Yet, Thomson's interests moved beyond publishing with the creation of Thomson Travel and acquisition of Britannia Airways in 1965 and 1971, and a foray into a consortium exploring the North Sea for oil and gas.
By the end of the 1970s, Thomson Newspapers' circulation in the United States had surpassed the 1 million mark. The company assumed its current name in 1989 with the merger of Thomson Newspapers and the International Thomson Organization.
Over the years, the company has withdrawn from its holdings in the oil and gas business, the travel industry and department stores.
When Kenneth Thomson took over from his father Roy in 1976, the company was worth about $500 million. At Kenneth's death in June 2006, the company was valued at about $29.3 billion.
In 1978, the acquisition of Wadsworth Publishing provided Thomson with its first entry into specialized information, college textbooks and professional books.
Starting in the mid-1990s, Thomson invested further in specialized information services (but this time providing them in digital format) and began selling off its newspapers. That was about the time Richard J. Harrington, an accountant, became chief executive officer of the company. One of the first moves came when Thomson spent $3.4 billion to acquire the West Publishing Company, a legal information provider in Eagan, MN.
In recent years Thomson provided much of the specialized information content the world's financial, legal, research and medical organizations rely on every day to make business-critical decisions and drive innovation. While it remained a publishing company, early and aggressive investment in electronic delivery had become a key company goal.
"Except for its educational division, which still publishes a substantial number of conventional textbooks, Thomson had the good fortune to move into these businesses as customers were demanding electronic delivery of their information," according to a July 3, 2006 article in The New York Times. "In some markets, Thomson was able to move past other players who were more cautious about digital conversion."
In 2003, the Thomson Corporation bought the Chilton automotive assets.
In late 2004, the company sold its Thomson Media group to a Middle Eastern investment firm. The B2B publishing group, which features such titles as American Banker, National Mortgage News and The Bond Buyer, is now known as SourceMedia.
In October 2006, the company confirmed it would sell the Thomson Learning market group in three parts. The first part, corporate education and training (NETg), has agreed to be sold to Skillsoft for $285 million. Apax announced its acquisition of Thomson's higher education business on May 11, 2007 for $7.5 billion in cash assets.
Thomson had divested many of its traditional media assets – or combined them with digital products – and had moved towards a larger reliance on information technology services and products.
The Thomson family owned 70 percent of the company.
"David, my grandson, will have to take his part in the running of the Organisation and David's son, too," Roy wrote in his 1975 autobiography. "With the fortune that we will leave to them go also responsibilities. These Thomson boys that come after Ken are not going to be able, even if they want to, to shrug off these responsibilities."
The Thomson family controlled The Thomson Corporation through a family-owned entity, The Woodbridge Company, based in Toronto. (Along with 70 percent of Thomson Corporation, Woodbridge also owns a 40 percent stake in CTVglobemedia, which now owns The Globe and Mail daily newspaper in Toronto and CTV, Canada's largest commercial TV network.) David K.R. Thomson and his brother, Peter J. Thomson, became co-chairmen of Woodbridge on their father's death.