BBC Worldwide taps Webb non-exec chairman

Will oversee terms of a possible spinoff of commercial arm

LONDON -- The BBC has named Robert Webb non-executive chairman of BBC Worldwide, taking over from Etienne de Villiers, who stepped down this year.

Webb, who was general counsel of British Airways for more than a decade and has nonexecutive experience at the London Stock Exchange and software firm Autonomy, will take over at a critical juncture in the life of the BBC's commercial arm, overseeing the terms of any possible spinoff.

He also will have to decide whether BBC Worldwide should review its aggressively commercial investment strategy in independent production companies, global networks and non-BBC0-related brands like travel guide firm Lonely Planet.

The appointment follows an overhaul of revamp of BBC Worldwide's governance structure last month, which introduced an element of independence between the BBC's executive board and BBC Worldwide.

Webb is a nonexecutive on the BBC's executive board under BBC director general Mark Thompson.

"(Webb's) extensive corporate experience combined with his passion for the BBC make him ideally placed to work with (chief executive) John Smith and the BBC Worldwide board in steering BBC Worldwide through the next stage of its development as a company," Thompson said.