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Up to 80 redundancies expected at Lonely Planet worldwide; 49 redeployment opportunities available

Australia-based travel publisher Lonely Planet has confirmed that between 70 and 80 staff across the publisher’s worldwide operations will be made redundant within the next 12 months after 49 redeployment opportunities have been filled. A spokesperson for the publisher told Books+Publishing that the 49 redeployment opportunities will be spread between the London and Melbourne offices, with 34 opportunities in London and 15 in Melbourne.

Responding to a number of media reports about large numbers of redundancies at the publisher’s Melbourne headquarters this week, chief operating officer Daniel Houghton told Books+Publishing that the exact number of Australian employees affected by the cuts will ‘depend on how many staff are successfully redeployed’. Houghton said that some employees are still being informed of the changes, which will take place ‘progressively’ over the next six to 12 months.

Staff at the Lonely Planet offices in London and Oakland in the US are also expected to be affected by the changes. According to the Bookseller, 15 positions will be made redundant at the publisher’s London office, including eight editorial and publishing roles and six digital roles. A spokesperson for Lonely Planet told the Bookseller that London editorial staff affected by the changes will have ‘the opportunity for redepolyment into newly created roles’.

Travel website Skift reported that digital roles were to be transferred from the Melbourne office to Nashville in the US, where parent company NC2 Media is based. However, Houghton later responded to these claims, saying that ‘none of the changes reflect any movement in existing roles to Nashville’. Houghton also told Skift that ‘the change has nothing to do with the Australian office costing more than another office’.

The Australian reported on 18 July that ‘all editorial staff including … writers, editors and cartographers’ employed at Lonely Planet in Australia had been told that their positions had been made redundant. However, Houghton said that reports that the company has made every editorial worker redundant are ‘untrue’. ‘There are changes to our editorial staff, but every editorial worker has not been affected and it’s difficult to see this reported, as it’s simply untrue,’ said Houghton. ‘There are roles being made redundant, but new ones have been created and redeployment opportunities exist.’

Houghton rebuked claims that the publisher is ‘getting out of content creation’, as indicated in the Australian’s report. ‘This is a factually incorrect and malicious statement that has never been mentioned and will never be considered,’ said Houghton. ‘Content creation is the primary engine of our business and the absolute heart of our future business model in addition to our editorial integrity.’

Lonely Planet has also responded to claims that it is planning to significantly reduce its print guidebook business, as reported by the Age, which cited a memo being circulated within Lonely Planet that calls for ‘hard decisions to be made about the continuation of LP’s print publishing program’ as ‘only 50 books in the list are actually profitable’. Lonely Planet said in a statement that the reports are ‘unfounded and categorically untrue’, saying that the company has ‘no plans to reduce our breadth of destination content, or our product offering in digital or print’. ‘Lonely Planet is committed to continuing to publish guidebooks,’ said the company.

Houghton said Lonely Planet is ‘absolutely’ committed to keeping an office in Melbourne and said the changes are occurring to ‘set ourselves up for future success’. Lonely Planet has said in an earlier statement that the staff changes are ‘in response to a challenging external environment’.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, Houghton took over the role of chief operating officer of Lonely Planet following the company’s acquisition by NC2 Media, of which Houghton is executive director. NC2 Media bought the company from BBC Worldwide in March for $75 million (£51.5 million at the time of sale), close to $114 million (£75 million) less than what BBC Worldwide paid for the business.

BBC Worldwide owned Lonely Planet between 2007 and 2013, acquiring the company from Australian founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler in two stages. During the six years, BBC Worldwide wrote down the value of the business by £49.9 million (A$72.6 million in 2012), citing the recent strength of the Australian currency and ‘challenging market conditions’. The business also relocated a substantial part of its web operations to the UK in 2011, affecting as many as 70 jobs in Melbourne.



Category: Local news