Tuesday, March 19, 2013

U.S. billionaire buys Lonely Planet travel guides

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Four decades after Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler assembled the first edition at their kitchen table in Australia, the iconic travel guidebook series is being sold to a Nashville-based digital media company controlled by a former tobacco magnate who is now one of the country's largest private land owners.
Lonely Planet
BBC Worldwide said Tuesday it agreed to sell the company to Brad Kelley's NC2Media for $77.3 million, or less than half of what it paid for Lonely Planet in 2007. The sale, first reported by Skift.com,comes amid stiff headwinds for the travel guidebook industry - and despite what Skift.com's Jason Clampet describes as Lonely Planet's "healthy digital publishing program, singular mission, and now-dominant global reach when it comes to English-language travel content."
"Lonely Planet has increased its presence in digital, magazine publishing and emerging markets whilst also growing its global market share, despite difficult economic conditions,'' Paul Dempsey, interim chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said in a statement. "However, we have also recognized that it no longer fits with our plans to put BBC brands at the heart of our business and have decided to sell the company."
The BBC says Lonely Planet is the largest travel guidebook series in the U.S., Britain and Australia, with 120 million books published in 11 languages, more than 11 million apps downloaded and and 120 million annual unique visitors to its websites.
"The challenge and promise before us is to marry the world's greatest travel information and guidebook company with the limitless potential of 21st century digital technology,'' Daniel Houghton, executive director of NC2 Media, said in a statement. "If we can do this, and I believe we can, we can build a business that, while remaining true to the things that made Lonely Planet great in the past, promises to make it even greater in the future."
Kelley, NC2Media's chief shareholder, also has an investment in OutWild TV, a travel video site. Described by the Wall Street Journalas a "shrewd businessman who avoids the limelight," made a fortune in the discount cigarette business and owns about 1,600 square miles of land, or more than the state of Rhode Island.
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