BBC Worldwide chairman to step down

Etienne de Villiers assumed the role for three years

LONDON -- BBC Worldwide chairman Etienne de Villiers will step down at the end of the month after almost three years in the role overseeing the pubcaster's commercial arm, it was announced Monday.

De Villiers, who was president of Walt Disney International between 1986 and 2000 and was executive chairman of tennis body the ATP World Tour between 2004 and 2007, had been chairman and non-executive director of BBC Worldwide since January 2006.

De Villiers and BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith led a program of controversial expansion into commercial markets including the acquisition of the Lonely Planet travel guide and expansion of the BBC Worldwide's publishing and local production operations.

Such moves are likely to come under increasing scrutiny, and have already earned the corporation Parliamentary rebukes as well as criticism from rivals.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said de Villiers had been responsible for growing Worldwide's bottom line and delivering cash back to the BBC's core program-production remit.

"Under Etienne's stewardship, BBC Worldwide has significantly grown both revenues and profits," said Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC. "The business has expanded internationally and is recognized around the world as a trusted media brand."