Lonely Planet Sold to BBC Worldwide

Posted by Chika On 7:55 PM

This momentous event in travel publishing history took place a few weeks ago, but it seems that the word hasn't really gotten out that Tony Wheeler has sold his legendary Lonely Planet to BBC Worldwide for an estimated $200M, plus he's keeping 25% in his back pocket....just in case.

BBC Worldwide buys Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet publishes guides to 500 destinations

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, has bought the travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet, founded by husband and wife team Tony and Maureen Wheeler in 1972, publishes around 500 titles that are widely used by backpackers.

The purchase fits in with BBC plans to grow online revenues and expand operations in America and Australia. Lonely Planet also produces travel programmes and its web site receives 4.3 million visitors a month. The Wheelers, who owned the business along with John Singleton, will retain a 25% shareholding in the company.

"We felt that BBC Worldwide would provide a platform true to our vision and values, while allowing us to take the business to the next level," they said.

The amount paid was not disclosed. The BBC said that the deal would strengthen Lonely Planet's visibility and growth potential. It would also allow Lonely Planet users to access BBC content - such as Michael Palin's New Europe.

After travelling overland from Europe to Australia, the Wheelers produced their first book, Across Asia on the Cheap, from their kitchen table. Today, Lonely Planet has offices in Melbourne, Oakland and London, with more than 500 office employees and more than 300 on-the-road authors.

BBC Link

And another report with more information and terms and price.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp., bought Lonely Planet in a deal that values the travel publisher at about 100 million pounds ($203 million), a person familiar with the talks said.
Lonely Planet founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler will keep a 25 percent stake, the BBC said Monday.

The couple, who met on a bench in The Regent's Park of London, started the publisher in 1972 after a honeymoon trip across Asia with "a beat-up old car, a few dollars in the pocket and a sense of adventure," Lonely Planet's Web site says.

More than 30 years after Across Asia on the Cheap, the couple have made about 70 million pounds ($142 million) on the sale, figures from the source suggest, since they owned about 90 percent of the business.

"Joining BBC Worldwide allows us to secure the long-term future of our company within a globally recognized media group," the Wheelers said in a statement.

Lonely Planet, headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, publishes about 500 travel guides, including language, cycling and walking titles. The company, which employs 500 staff and as many as 300 on-the-road authors, has recently targeted a mature traveling audience after focusing on campers and backpackers for decades.

The deal will help the BBC become "one of the world's leading content businesses," BBC Worldwide Chief Executive John Smith said.

The broadcaster also aims to grow online brands, and to increase its operations in Australia and North America, Smith said.

"The association will strengthen Lonely Planet's visibility and growth potential, particularly in the digital arena, as well as providing their users access to the wide range of BBC content (that) connects with their interests," said Etienne de Villiers, nonexecutive chairman of BBC Worldwide.

Deloitte Touche Tohumatsu's Corporate Finance Advisory arm, as well as Australian law firm Blake Dawson Waldron, advised the BBC on the purchase, the broadcaster said.

ZD Net Link

And the best coverage with the best links comes from the Los Angeles Times.

Lonely Planet founders ’sell out’ to BBC Worldwide

The British Broadcasting Trust and Lonely Planet Publications announced today that Lonely Planet’s founders, Tony Wheeler and Maureen Wheeler, have sold their majority stake in Lonely Planet to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Worldwide for an undisclosed sum.

Here’s a link to an upbeat video of Tony and Maureen’s official ‘adieu’ announcement on lonelyplanet.tv [after the 15-second ad].

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is reporting a sale price of $250 million [in Australian dollars, or roughly US$220mil]. Reuters pegs the price at 100 million pounds (or US$203mil). The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has is at CA$221 million.

Here’s an ABC mp3 audio of Tony Wheeler explaining the deal (and the decision to keep publishing a Burma/Myanmar guidebook), in which he uses the phrase “sell out.”

The BBC and Lonely Planet are both reporting that the Wheelers will retain a 25% share of Lonely Planet and seats on the company’s board. As of Oct. 1, Lonely Planet is still hiring in Melbourne and London, from an Executive Assistant to the CFO to a Business Development Manager for Lonely Planet Images.

Here’s a link to a recent Q&A with Tony and Maureen Wheeler, with the Travel editors at our sister publication, the Chicago Tribune. As of the time of the sale announcement, here’s what the BBC had to say about Lonely Planet:

“BBC recommends: Lonely Planet

Select your destination and find indispensable, money-saving local information, including practical details like whether it’s acceptable to haggle.”

Here’s what Lonely Planet had to say about the BBC:

“BBC World Service - 648AM: Internationally known for its news coverage; also current affairs from around the world with a British accent.”

Finally, here’s what user ‘odecar10,’ a self-described “Economic migrant to the UK from the Emerald isle in the bad old days of the 1980’s and still there” had to say, on Lonely Planet’s Thorntree bulletin board:

“Unfortunately its true. LP now owned by the propoganda [sic] arm of the British Government.”

Watch this space for updates on how these developments might affect the guidebook and “independent” travel publisher’s future publishing, multimedia and broadcasting plans.

Does this move bode well for LP, its vibrant online community and tradition of ‘independent’ travel advice? Chime in below in the Comments section.

LA Times Link

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