The BBC is to sell Lonely Planet to US-based NC2 Media for US$77 million with the aim to focus on its core BBC brands.
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British broadcaster, first acquired the travel company for almost US$196 million in 2007.
According to the New York Times, BBC insisted that no public money was lost since BBC Worldwide used its own money – derived from a license fee on British television-owning households – rather than the BBC budget to pay for Lonely Planet.
However, BBC Worldwide still returns profit to BBC, and the shortfall will affect BBC’s overall spendings.
Despite the loss in sales, Diane Coyle, BBC Trust vice chairman and chair of the Strategic Approvals Committee, said the purchase made sense at the time.
“Although this did not prove to be a good commercial investment, Worldwide is a very successful business; and at the time of purchase there was a credible rationale for this deal”
“Given the significant financial loss to Worldwide, however, we have asked the BBC Executive to commission a review of lessons learnt and report to the Trust with its findings.”
“We acquired Lonely Planet in 2007 when both our strategy and the market conditions were quite different,” said interim chief executive officer of BBC Worldwide Paul Dempsey, who added that Lonely Planet has since expanded to digital, magazine publishing and emerging markets; it has also grew in global market shares.
“However, we have also recognised that it no longer fits with our plans to put BBC brands at the heart of our business and have decided to sell the company to NC2 Media who are better placed to build and invest in the business.”
Since its founding days in 1973, Lonely Planet has printed 120 million books in 11 different languages; however, the company’s performance and the overall travel industry were hit hard by the consolidation of the publishing industry, the economic crisis as well as the strength of the Australian dollar.
Currently, the publisher employs 400 people and is headquartered in Melbourne.