Exclusive: BBC selling Lonely Planet to Kentucky cigarette billionaire Brad Kelley

Rafat Ali:

EXCLUSIVE: Lonely Planet, the storied travel guidebooks publisher owned by BBC, is about to be sold, we have learned. And the buyer is a doozy: reclusive Kentucky billionaire Brad Kelley, who spent the 1990s selling discount cigarette brands like USA Gold, Bull Durham, and Malibu, then sold the company for almost $1 billion in 2001, and parlayed that money into becoming the one of the largest land owners and conservationists in United States.

The deal is in final stages of negotiation, and barring any big red flags that come up the last second it should be announced next week.

The deal terms, according to our sources: Kelley will buy a majority controlling stake in Lonely Planet, and BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of BBC which bought LP, will retain a small-but-sizable stake to help maintain editorial control through current management, as well as save on inter-country taxes.