BBC mags Radio Times, Top Gear, Olive in £121m deal

BBC Worldwide has confirmed the sell-off of its consumer magazines business to a UK private equity company.

The deal includes a mix of sale, licensing and contract agreements under which the flagship title Radio Times will be acquired outright by Exponent Private Equity. The transaction was given full approval from the BBC Trust on 21 July and the BBC said today’s announcement ‘concludes a rigorous process”.

The Trust said it expects competition watchdog the Office of Fair Trading to clear the deal in the autumn. The majority of BBC Magazines staff and operations will be transferred to the new company when the deal is completed.

Under the terms of the deal, Exponent will acquire a 50 per cent stake in BBC Magazines’ subscriptions fulfilment company Dovetail and its share of the distribution business Frontline. It will also acquire specialist publisher Origin Publishing, which BBC Magazines has a minority stake in.

In a separate deal, BBC Worldwide also announced the sale of its 50 per cent shareholding in Worldwide Media, its publishing joint venture in India, to fellow shareholder Bennett Coleman & Co, which owns The Times of India.

BBC Worldwide said that both deals will deliver a total of £121m.

‘The deal announced today offers the best prospects for the magazines business to continue on this path of success, while BBC Worldwide pursues a strategy increasingly focused on international video and digital services,” said BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith.

‘The consumer magazines market faces a number of challenges, and this transaction brings a focus and degree of investment that BBC Worldwide alone is unable to provide.”

Exponent’s Richard Lenane added: ‘We look forward to working with the BBC Magazines team and in partnership with BBC Worldwide to continue to develop the BBC magazine franchise and to take advantage of the growth opportunities afforded to the business outside BBC Worldwide ownership.”

In a statement outlining the terms of the deal the BBC said the titles and brands currently published by BBC Magazines will fall into one of three categories:

  • Sale: Radio Times and a number of magazines less closely aligned to the BBC, including Olive and Gardens Illustrated, are being sold outright to Exponent. These are: Radio Times; All About Animals; Girl Talk; Homes & Antiques; Gardens Illustrated; Olive; Charlie & Lola; In the Night Garden; Waybuloo; Bob the Builder; Who Do You Think You Are? Plus all of the 17 specialist titles currently published by Origin, including 220 Triathlon, Perfect Wedding, Knit Today.
  • Licence: BBC and BBC programme-branded titles will be licensed (including Gardeners’ World and BBC Wildlife), with BBC Worldwide not retaining ownership but keeping a strong continuing editorial interest under licensing agreements. These are: CBeebies Art; CBeebies Animals; CBeebies Specials; CBeebies Weekly; Toybox; Zingzillas; Something Special; Doctor Who Adventures; Match of the Day; Top of the Pops; Gardeners’ World; BBC History; BBC Music; BBC Wildlife; Countryfile; Focus; Knowledge; Sky at Night
  • Contract:Titles relating to key BBC Worldwide brands will be retained by BBC Worldwide and published by Exponent under contract publishing arrangements. These are: Top Gear; Lonely Planet; Good Food; Easy Cook

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