Lonely Planet not for sale, says BBC Worldwide

<p>BBC Worldwide has said it has no plans to sell Lonely Planet, despite rumours that it is &quot;top of the list&quot; for a review of the corporation&#39;s activities, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/27/bbc-worldwide-lonely-planet" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a> reports.</p><p>The 2007 acquisition of 75% of the travel guide publisher for &pound;89m has faced a number of concerns, and been attacked by ministers as well as industry competitors such as chief executive of News Corp&#39;s European and Asian businesses James Murdoch. </p><p>The Guardian cites &quot;sources familiar with the situation&quot; as confirming that BBC management has already discussed the disposal of Lonely Planet. The review was announced by the BBC Trust last month and is being led by director general Mark Thompson.</p><p>One source said: &quot;Because of the furore over the row it has not been possible to leverage the kind of synergy that Worldwide had hoped. Linking the BBC brand with Lonely Planet is too sensitive and raises questions of impartiality. BBC management never liked the deal when it was done and thought BBC Worldwide was being too expansionist at a politically sensitive time.&quot;</p><p>But, BBC Worldwide said it had &quot;no plans to sell the highly successful Lonely Planet travel information business. It is not up for sale full stop&quot;.</p><p>Yesterday it emerged that the Australian founders of Lonely Planet, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who retained a 25% stake, had been allowed to extend an option they have to sell their share to the BBC. This prompted speculation that the move has been made because the Wheelers are expecting the BBC to sell Lonely Planet and they hope to buy it back for less than they sold it. Tony Elliott, the chairman of Time Out, said he had &quot;been told by reliable sources that the BBC will sell Lonely Planet&quot;.</p><p>The company is now valued at around &pound;50m, with experts claiming it made a loss during the last financial year. The BBC has spent an estimated &pound;5m-&pound;15m on the brand, in particular on its digital activities. </p>