BBC Worldwide has acquired Lonely Planet in a deal that will build the franchise around the world.
The privately owned business is being sold by Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who founded the company in 1972, and John Singleton who became a shareholder in 1999.
John Smith, CEO of BBC Worldwide, said: “We are delighted to be announcing this acquisition today. Lonely Planet is a highly respected international brand and a global leader in the provision of travel information. This deal fits well with our strategy to create one of the world’s leading content businesses, to grow our portfolio of content brands online and to increase our operations in Australia and America.”
Lonely Planet, which has significant operations in the UK, California and Australia, is led by Judy Slatyer (CEO) and her management team, who will be staying with the business. Lonely Planet’s global headquarters will remain in Melbourne.
Maureen and Tony Wheeler, joint founders, who will retain a 25% shareholding in the company, said: “Joining BBC Worldwide allows us to secure the long-term future of our company within a globally recognised media group. In our discussions with John and his team, 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.”
Etienne de Villiers, Non-executive Chairman of BBC Worldwide, commented: “Closing this prestigious deal is a great feather in the cap for BBC Worldwide, its management and the BBC overall. It is further evidence of BBC Worldwide’s ability to become a major international media player.
“It is testimony to BBC Worldwide’s reputation that the Wheelers believe we are the right partner to take the business forward, given the many organisations that have approached them over the years. We are all convinced that 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 which connects with their interests - from Michael Palin’s New Europe to Planet Earth.”
Lonely Planet publishes around 500 titles including specialist activity guides, shoestring guides and phrasebooks. It publishes in various languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Spanish. The company also produces and develops factual programming for international broadcasters (Lonely Planet Television). Its flagship TV series, Lonely Planet Six Degrees, produced for Discovery Networks, is now in its third season, and screens in over 100 countries. Meanwhile, Lonely Planet’s website receives 4.3 million unique visitors a month and Lonely Planet’s travel video site, lonelyplanet.tv, is establishing a valuable online community of independent travellers, allowing travellers to upload and watch their own video as well as view videos created by Lonely Planet.
Welcoming the transaction, Maureen and Tony Wheeler concluded: “We will remain completely focused on the delivery of unique content to our travellers around the world. We are very optimistic about the prospects for the Lonely Planet brand under the BBC Worldwide umbrella.”
The deal team was led by David King, Chief Financial Officer, BBC Worldwide and Ian Watson, International Director, BBC Worldwide. Worldwide’s advisors in Australia included Deloitte Corporate Finance and legal advisers Blake, Dawson Waldron.