Franklin company buying Lonely Planet from BBC

Media venture backed by Factory buyer Kelley inks $78M deal

A young company backed by locally based billionaire Brad Kelley has signed an agreement to buy travel publishing giant Lonely Planet from BBC Worldwide.

The deal announced Tuesday calls for NC2 Media to pay $78 million over the next year for Lonely Planet, which is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, and also has offices in London, Oakland and Delhi, India. The company was founded 40 years ago by husband and wife Tony and Maureen Wheeler and now employs about 400 people who publish printed guides and magazines as well as various digital tools that now account for about a quarter of revenues. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of this month.

"With this acquisition comes a global footprint, not only in the travel guide business, but also in magazine publishing and the digital space," said Daniel Houghton, executive director of NC2 Media. "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. 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."

Following the deal's completion, Houghton also will become COO of Lonely Planet, which has printed about 120 million books in 11 different languages and has had its mobile applications downloaded more than 11 million times.

BBC Worldwide has been looking for a buyer for Lonely Planet for a while and is taking a big hit on the sale to NC2. It bought 75 percent of Lonely Planet in 2007 and the remaining shares in 2011, paying a total of $196 million. Executives wrote down the value of Lonely Planet last year following a drop in travel during the recession and the strength of the Australian dollar.

Kelley made waves locally last year when he led an investor group that paid more than $24 million for the Factory at Franklin complex.

For the full news release detailing the deal, click here.