BBC Worldwide Sells Off Travel Guide Empire

The public broadcaster's commercial arm disposes of its Lonely Planet travel guide biz for $77 million to Brad Kelley’s Nashville-based NC2 Media.

LONDON – BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, has sold its Lonely Planet travel guide subsidiary to U.S. Forbes' listed Brad Kelley’s Nashville-based NC2 Media for $77 million (£51.5 million).

The deal price, awaiting a rubber stamp from the BBC Trust, the organization's governing body, is a lot less than the $197 million the BBC's commercial arm paid for the biz in two stages in 2007.

BBC Worldwide interim CEO Paul Dempsey said in a statement that the acquisition of the Lonely Planet empire in 2007 came at a time when "both our strategy and the market conditions were quite different."

NC2 Media’s primary shareholder is U.S. biz whiz Kelley, whose historical business interests include consumer products and real estate.

He was formerly the largest shareholder and board member in Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Kelley’s current business interests focus on media via NC2 Media and various technologies through VAON Technology Unit.

Travel publisher Lonely Planet has printed approximately 120 million guidebooks to countries and regions in 11 languages and is the No. 1 travel-book brand in the U.S., Australia and the U.K.

NC2 Media’s executive director Daniel Houghton will become COO of the acquired company.

He said: “With this acquisition comes a global footprint, not only in the travel guide business, but also in magazine publishing and the digital space."

The discounted sale price has caused eyebrows to be raised in certain quarters.

BBC Trust member Diane Coyle told The Guardian that BBC executives have been asked "to commission a review of lessons learnt and report to the Trust with its findings."