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BBC Worldwide buys 75% of travel publisher Lonely Planet

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Yesterday, the British Broadcasting Corp. bought a controlling stake in travel guidebook company Lonely Planet, gaining a catalog of 500 travel guides from Antarctica to Zimbabwe to boost holiday coverage on television and the Web and to expand outside Britain.

BBC Worldwide Ltd., a BBC unit that sells books and television programs, acquired 75% of the publisher from Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who founded the company in 1972, and John Singleton, a shareholder since 1999, the London-based broadcaster said. It didn't disclose financial details.

Lonely Planet, with operations in Britain, Australia and Oakland, will give the BBC a globally recognized travel brand and a television series that runs in more than 100 countries.

The Australian publisher developed a cult following among backpackers and other young travelers with its first book, "Across Asia on the Cheap," in 1973 and has since broadened its repertoire to appeal to a more affluent clientele.

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