BBC Mulls Buy-Out of Joint Venture With Failed Retail Chain

28 November 2008

LONDON: Eyebrows are set to hit hairlines – epecially among the BBC's legion of critics – at the deal struck this week between the broadcaster and UK retail chain Woolworths, which on Wednesday evening decided to file for administration in the High Court.

The retailer – known affectionately to generations of shoppers and their families as 'Woolies' – is a 40/60 partner in 2entertain, a joint DVD-publishing venture with BBC Worldwide. Much of the DVD content is BBC-originated, including such worldwide hits as Dr Who and Blue Planet.

The sale of its stake to BBCWW was mooted by Woolworths' directors as part of an overall deal in which the 800-store retail chain would be sold to sold to restructuring specialist Hilco UK, while its profitable wholesale distribution rump would remain as a listed company.

The deal, value unstated, has been agreed in principle by the BBC but remains subject to due diligence procedures and approval from its governing body, the BBC Trust.

The latter's greenlight cannot be taken for granted, not least because the state-owned BBC has come under increasingly heavy fire of late for its allegedly anti-competitive expansion plans. 

According to a BBC mole, there is "no certainty" that the BBC will ink the deal. Meantime, all parties' lips remain firmly zipped.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff