BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, is selling its Lonely Planet travel guide business at the knockdown price of £51.5M ($77M) after paying £130M to acquire it in an earlier two-stage deal. The company had been looking for a buyer for the past year before settling on Brad Kelley’s Nashville-based NC2 Media, a content creation, acquisition, and distribution company which is also engaged in developing new technologies. The sale price has been criticized by the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, whose Diane Coyle said, “Given the significant financial loss to Worldwide… we have asked the BBC executive to commission a review of lessons learnt and report to the Trust with its findings.” According to The Guardian, Coyle allowed there had been a “credible rationale” for the original purchase, but said, “Worldwide would not make this sort of acquisition again.” BBCWW handles about 50,000 hours of BBC and independently-produced content including such series as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Teletubbies. Interim BBCWW CEO, Paul Dempsey, said, “We acquired Lonely Planet in 2007 when both our strategy and the market conditions were quite different.” Despite Lonely Planet’s growth, Dempsey allowed, “We have also recognized that it no longer fits with our plans to put BBC brands at the heart of our business.”
Travel publiser Lonely Planet has printed approximately 120M books in 11 languages and is the number one travel guide book brand in the U.S., Australia and the UK. NC2 Media’s executive director Daniel Houghton will become COO of the acquired company with the sale to close at the end of the month.