BBC Worldwide is understood to be set to acquire the final quarter stake in travel guide publisher Lonely Planet.
The commercial arm of the BBC is set to spend £42.1 million for the 25 per cent stake, the last remaining shares owned by co-founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who founded the Australian publishing company in 1973.
Three quarters of the publisher is already owned by the BBC, following a deal for £88.1 million in 2007, and despite not holding ownership, it is understood that the Wheeler’s told staff that they will still be involved in the company in some capacity in the future.
Matt Goldberg, CEO of Lonely Planet said in an email to staid that the Wheelers; ‘deep, personal relationship’ with employees and partners in the business would be ‘everlasting’.
He continued: “In the two years I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Tony and Maureen, I’ve felt incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such visionary individuals, who have ignited all of our passion for travel in so many different and fun ways. I want to thank them for welcoming me as CEO, and for their amazing stories, sound advice and warm hospitality.
“Today’s announcement won’t change our strategy or the current day-to-day running of the business,” he concluded.
Marcus Authur, chairman of Lonely Planet and managing director of the global brands division of BBC Worldwide, explained that the put option to buy the final quarter shares of the business meant that the organisation was able to ‘benefit’ from the experience of working with the Wheelers for three-and-a-half years.
“They have supported Lonely Planet's ongoing migration from a traditional book publisher to a multi-platform brand,” he added.