BBC makes pals with Lonely Planet

Network buys 75% stake in travel company

The BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, has taken the unusual step of buying a 75% stake in Australia-based travel information combo, Lonely Planet, for an undisclosed sum.

Lonely Planet, a favorite with backpackers, publishes some 500 travel-related titles. Lonely Planet Television produces “Lonely Planet Six Degrees” for Discovery Network. The show, which screens in 100 countries, is in its third season.

Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who founded Lonely Planet in 1972, retain a 25% stake and will remain with the publisher on a consulting basis.

“This deal fits well with our strategy to create one of the world’s leading content businesses, to grow our portfolio of content brands online and to increase our operations in Australia and America,” said Worldwide CEO John Smith.

The Wheelers’ first book, “Across Asia on the Cheap,” chronicled their honeymoon traveling across Europe and Asia to Australia. The company, which has offices in Melbourne, Australia; Oakland, Calif.; and London; now sells 6.5 million travel guides in 200 countries annually and runs a website.