LONDON — Pearson has agreed to sell its 50 percent stake in The Economist in a £469 million deal that the magazine claims will guarantee its editorial independence.Italy’s Agnelli family will emerge as the largest shareholders with 43.4 percent of the Economist’s shares, it said in a statement Wednesday.However, a change in the company’s structure will limit the voting rights of any single shareholder to 20 percent. No shareholder will be able to own more than a 50 percent stake. Exor has been an “exemplary” shareholder since it began building a stake in the company six years ago, Pennant-Rea said. Before this deal, Exor owned 4.7 percent. John Elkann, the heir to the Agnelli fortune, sits on the magazine’s board.With its increased investment, Exor will nominate five of eleven board members, or six of thirteen if the board increases in size, and receive dividend income of around £18 million a year.Elkann, in a statement, said: “We have always admired the editorial integrity and thoroughly global outlook that are the hallmarks of The Economist’s success and we fully subscribe to its historic mission.”Editorial independenceAn Economist spokesman said the transaction will “safeguard the independence of the company and crucially, the editorial independence of The Economist.”That sentiment was echoed by the magazine’s five most recent editors, who said in a joint statement that they were satisfied its journalists would continue to be able to publish freely without corporate interference.“The proposed transaction announced today will, in our view, maintain and even strengthen the group’s constitution,” said Andrew Knight, Rupert Pennant-Rea, Bill Emmott, John Micklethwait and Minton Beddoes. Rothschild, whose family will get to appoint two Economist directors, said the shareholders’ priority was to ensure editorial independence. Operating without an outright owner, who could try to impose an editorial line, will make it virtually unique among major news organizations, she said.In weeks of talks between Pearson and other shareholders, Rothschild said, “There was some going back-and-forth about how to get there, but at the end of the day Exor and we really agreed that this was the best way to protect the independence of the paper, and also to be fair among all the shareholders. It was a good result.”The Rothschilds have been shareholders since 1929 and it is one of their most cherished investments.“The Economist is a privilege and it’s an obligation. It’s an honour,” Rothschild said. “The Economist means an enormous amount to the family. [Her husband Sir] Evelyn was chairman for many, many years. We’re very proud of the integrity of the newspaper, the role that it plays in the world. We feel like we’re guardians, with a very small g.”This article was updated to clarify the number of board members Exor will nominate. Also On POLITICO A Jersey Lady and The Economist By Alex Spence and Matthew Karnitschnig Pearson’s intention to sell the Economist stake, which it has held since it bought the Financial Times in 1957, was first reported by POLITICO last month. Claudio Aspesi, a media analyst at Bernstein, said Pearson’s investors would welcome the sale, as it would now be able to concentrate on its core education business.“The prices offered for both the FT and the stake in The Economist could not be refused,” Aspesi added.Exor, the Agnelli family’s investment company, will pay £287 million to buy much of Pearson’s stake.The Economist will itself buy 5 million shares from the British education group for £182 million. That will be partly funded by the sale of the magazine’s distinctive, modernist London headquarters in London, where its editorial team has been based since the 1960s. The building complex is estimated to be worth around £150 million.Rupert Pennant-Rea, the Economist’s chairman, said in a statement Wednesday: “We have been blessed over many years to have had in the Financial Times and subsequently Pearson, a shareholder that has understood and supported the ethos of the [magazine]. We all owe them a considerable debt.”The transaction has the full support of the Economist’s board, independent trustees and the editor, Zanny Minton Beddoes, he added. The Rothschild family, who were the largest shareholders other than Pearson, will see their holding increase from 21 percent to 26 percent.Lady Lynn de Rothschild, who represents the family’s interest on the board, said in an interview that the deal preserves the spirit of an agreement dating from 1929 that ensured ownership of the magazine would be balanced between the Financial Times —bought by Pearson in 1957 — and numerous independent shareholders including the Rothschild, Schroder and Cadbury families.“The concept is that we don’t want any one group controlling the Economist,” Rothschild said in an interview. “That’s the fundamental belief that we all have. We all believe that’s better for value creation.”She added: “[The Economist] has existed since 1843 and we should be having this conversation in 3043, that’s how good [the deal] is.”“We feel like we’re guardians, with a very small g” — Lady Lynn de RothschildWith the sale, Pearson divests another of its coveted media assets and moves closer to its goal of becoming strictly focused on the education business. Pearson has separately sold the Financial Times to Nikkei for £844 million.