BBC Worldwide agrees to sell magazines to Exponent

The long running story of who is to buy the BBCs magazine looks to finally have ended. BBC Worldwide and Exponent Private Equity have signed a sale and licensing agreement for the publication of titles currently published by BBC Magazines, BBC Worldwide’s consumer magazines business. Under the terms of the deal Exponent will acquire, in full, Radio Times and a number of magazines less closely aligned to the BBC, as well as the rights to publish BBC-branded titles under licensing and contract arrangements.

The deal is expected to complete in the autumn, following clearance from the Office of Fair Trading.

Exponent is also to acquire BBC Magazines’ 50% stake in Dovetail, its subscriptions fulfilment company and its share of distribution business, Frontline. In addition, Exponent will acquire specialist publisher Origin Publishing in which BBC Magazines currently holds a minority stake.

At the same time, BBC Worldwide has announced that it has agreed the sale of a 50% shareholding in Worldwide Media, a publishing joint venture in India, to fellow shareholder, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, owner of The Times of India.

These transactions will deliver a total of £121m to BBC Worldwide, with the majority of the proceeds going back to the BBC.

Commenting on the deal with Exponent, John Smith, CEO of BBC Worldwide, said: “BBC Magazines is a world-class magazines business, with an incredible depth of talent across editorial, publishing, marketing and commercial. It continually provides readers with the highest quality content, has launched successful new titles in the UK and overseas, and has strongly outperformed the UK market in recent years.

“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. 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.”

Also commenting on the deal, Richard Lenane of Exponent, said: “We are delighted to have signed an agreement with BBC Worldwide for its magazines business, pending OFT approval. Exponent invests exclusively in market-leading businesses which have strong growth potential and great people. We believe that BBC Magazines is such a business.

“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.”

Under the terms of the deal, 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;
  • Licence – BBC and BBC programme-branded titles will be licensed (including Gardeners’ World, BBC Wildlife), with BBC Worldwide not retaining ownership but keeping a strong continuing editorial interest under licensing agreements;
  • Contract – Titles relating to key BBC Worldwide brands (Top Gear, Good Food and Lonely Planet) will be retained by BBC Worldwide and published by Exponent under contract publishing arrangements.

The regulatory process is expected to take around 40 working days. The majority of BBC Magazines staff and BBC Magazines’ operations will transfer to the new company when the deal completes.

UK, London

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