London : BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, today said that it will sell its popular travel guide business ‘Lonely Planet’ to a US media firm at a loss of nearly $121 million. The BBC Trust has approved the sale for $75 million (₤ 51.5 million), following criticism of the $196 million acquisition of Lonely Planet in 2007, the British broadcaster said.
The US-based NC2 Media will buy Lonely Planet, which publishes popular travel guides in nine languages, it said. In 2009, a Culture Media and Sport Select Committee said the purchase expanded an area “where the BBC has no, or very limited existing interests”.
The Lonely Planet suffered from the prolonged global recession and the Australian dollar appreciating to 58 per cent against the UK pound — 80 per cent of Lonely Planet’s revenues are generated from foreign currency, a BBC report said today. The sale follows the corporation’s commercial review last year which set out the company’s strategy to focus on BBC brands and promote the best of its output globally, it said.
“The Trust’s strategy for Worldwide now is to focus on BBC programme content, and Worldwide would not make this sort of acquisition again,” the report quoted Trust vice chairman and chair of the Strategic Approvals Committee, Diane Coyle as saying.
“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,” she added.
Paul Dempsey, interim chief executive officer of BBC Worldwide, said: “We acquired Lonely Planet in 2007 when both our strategy and the market conditions were quite different”.
“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,” Dempsey said. (बीएल)