BBC taps Web partner

TH Lee gains 13.5% stake in Beeb Ventures

LONDON — BBC Worldwide has partnered with U.S. Internet investor TH Lee Global Internet Managers to help develop its Web presence.

TH Lee is paying £32.5 million ($48.5 million) for a 13.5% stake in Beeb Ventures, a new BBC subsid comprising Beeb.com, the BBC’s e-commerce portal, and ISP Freebeeb.net. The deal values Beeb Ventures at $360 million.

It was expected that Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm, would sell a more significant stake in the businesses.

Worldwide’s chief exec, Rupert Gavin, however, hinted that other suitors had sought too big of a holding. He added that the amount TH Lee is investing is all that is currently needed.

But the arrangement with TH Lee is non-exclusive and could be followed by additional partnerings. It is also likely that Beeb Ventures will be floated, perhaps within the next three years.

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