BBC Trust calls for review as sell-off loses £80m

The BBC Trust has ordered a review to examine a deal which has now led to the Corporation’s commercial arm selling off travel guide firm Lonely Planet for almost £80m less than it paid.

BBC Worldwide will sell the company, which is the biggest selling brand in the UK travel guide market and hugely popular around the world, for £51.5m to US-based NC2 Media.

That marks a huge 60 per cent reduction on the £130.2m paid in total acquiring the firm in two chunks in 2007 and 2011.

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The Trust yesterday called it a “significant financial loss” as it commissioned the BBC Executive to look into “lessons learned” from the losses.

The purchase was long seen as a controversial move because, until it took on Lonely Planet, Worldwide had mainly been involved in exploiting BBC productions, rather than buying up other firms.

Yesterday’s sale, which has been approved by the BBC Trust, comes as a result of refocusing Worldwide’s activities and primarily promote BBC brands and programmes. The continued ownership of Lonely Planet no longer fitted with the strategy and is being seen as closing a chapter in Worldwide’s history.

A BBC Worldwide spokesman said: “The financial losses we incurred were the result of external factors beyond our control - primarily the Australian dollar appreciating by 58 per cent against the pound.

“The global recession’s impact on leisure travel and the consolidation of the publishing industry also played a part but we’ve been writing down Lonely Planet’s carrying value for the last few years to reflect this.”

Worldwide added that had earned £875m for the Corporation in the time it has owned Lonely Planet, through its brands and licensing programmes and formats such as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing.