BBC arm sells its magazines in £121m deal

 
Steve Dinneen
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BBC Worldwide has sold its iconic magazines portfolio, severing its 88-year tie to the Radio Times.

It has agreed to sell BBC Magazines, whose 62 titles worldwide include Gardens Illustrated and CBeebies, to Exponent Private Equity. It has also disposed of its 50 per cent shareholding in Indian joint venture Worldwide Media to media firm Bennett, Coleman & Co. Both deals combined are worth a total of £121m.

As part of the deal, titles like Top Gear, Good Food and Lonely Planet will remain in the BBC stable but will be published under contract by Exponent.

Exponent will also acquire BBC Magazines’ stake in subscriptions manager Dovetail, distribution network Frontline and specialist publisher Origin.

A BBC spokesman said the sale is part of BBC Worldwide’s strategy of focusing on its international operations and the development of its mobile and DVD businesses. She added the magazines business is in need of investment that BBC Worldwide is not in a position to make at this point.

BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith said: “The deal offers the best prospects for the magazines business to continue on its path of success, while we pursue a strategy increasingly focused on international video and digital services.

“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.”

FAST FACTS | BBC MAGAZINES

● The BBC has been involved with the Radio Times since its birth in 1923
● Buyer Exponent says it believes the magazines, which have performed well in a tough market, have strong growth prospects.

RICHARD LENANE | EXPONENT PRIVATE EQUITY

Exponent Private Equity, the new owner of the Radio Times and other BBC titles, invests in a wide range of UK mid-market companies. The former owner of the Times Educational Supplement was earlier this year part of the consortium that bought Quorn from Premier Foods.

Exponent’s experience in the media and publishing world also extends to PR group Gorkana, where it has been an investor since 2006; recruitment media business GTI; and digital publisher Magicalia.

It has also invested heavily in bed retailer Dreams and transport deals site thetrainline.com.

Exponent director Richard Lenane (pictured) said he was“delighted” with the BBC Worldwide deal, which is still pending OFT approval. He said: “Exponent invests exclusively in market-leading businesses that have strong growth potential and great people. We believe that BBC Magazines is such a business.