BBC Worldwide snaps up Lonely Planet

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The Independent Online

Travel guide publisher Lonely Planet was snapped up by the commercial arm of the BBC today.

BBC Worldwide said the deal for Melbourne-headquartered Lonely Planet will see it build on the group's franchise around the world with the extension of the travel guides across multimedia platforms.



Lonely Planet, which publishes around 500 titles including specialist activity guides and phrase books and has significant operations in the UK, will remain 25%-owned by its joint founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler.









The BBC said the deal would enable it to develop a "huge amount" of digital and online opportunities with the brand, particularly in relation to existing BBC content such as Planet Earth and Michael Palin's New Europe.

Lonely Planet's website already receives 4.3 million visitors a month, and it has also seen strong growth of its travel forum site Thorn Tree, and its travel video site, lonelyplanet.tv, which enables travellers to upload their own videos.



Lonely Planet, which was set up in 1972, also produces and develops factual programming for international broadcasters through its Lonely Planet Television operations.



Its flagship TV series, Lonely Planet Six Degrees, produced for the Discovery Networks, is now in its third season and is shown in more than 100 countries.



Founders Mr and Mrs Wheeler, who established the business after travelling across Europe and Asia overland to get to Australia, said: "Joining BBC Worldwide allows us to secure the long-term future of our company within a globally recognised media group.



"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."



The BBC said it will not take over the production of the travel guides and all the firm's current operations will remain as they are. Lonely Planet employs around 70 staff in the UK and around 400 others in Australia and the US. It also has a number of "on-the-road" reporters.



The BBC did not disclose how much the deal was worth.



BBC Worldwide chairman Etienne de Villiers said: "Closing this prestigious deal is a great feather in the cap for BBC Worldwide.



"We are 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 their interests."



BBC Worldwide is a division of the BBC which aims to make the most of the BBC's assets around the world. In the year to the end of March, it generated profits of £111.1 million on sales of £810.4 million.

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