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Google’s third big foray in travel: Buying Frommer’s for $23 million

Aug 13, 2012 8:26 am

Skift Take

Google going for local, where the real money is for the company, and it looks at trave through that lens as well. Hence Frommer’s.

— Rafat Ali

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Updated: The purchase price is a relatively paltry $23 million or so, according to a source quoted in NYT, which according to our source is only slightly more than 1X of Frommer’s 2011 revenues of around $20 million.

Google has been slowly buying up assets in the travel space: first Google bought ITA Software for $700 million, then a local travel play buying Zagat, and now a pure content play: it is buying Frommer’s from Wiley, reports WSJ.

No price has been disclosed. No word on whether Google will keep the print Frommer’s brand going, though it has kept Zagat print brands so that may be a hint it will keep it for some time. Also, down the line, it may merge Zagat’s content/brand with Frommer’s, as Google’s hinting in its official statement: “The Frommer’s team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team. We can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world.”

Technically, Frommer’s will be housed under Zagat division, the company said. Not everyone from Frommer’s is joining the Google/Zagat team. Employees of Frommers.com were let go today, and the future of the B2B operation based in London is questionable.

Arthur Frommer, the founder of the brand and a blogger for Frommers.com, tells Skift: “I couldn’t be more delighted. The energy, resources, and talent of the Google team will allow the Frommer’s brand to reach new levels of popularity.”

Wiley had announced on March 7 of this year that it was selling Frommer’s along with other consumer divisions including its culinary line. Since then a steady stream of lookers including AOL, Scripps Networks, Hachette, Travel Channel and PE firms like Great Hill and Oak went through the doors of bankers Allen & Company to look at the books, our sources say.

How exactly Google will fold the Frommer’s operation into its digital and print strategy (it already has one with Zagat) is still not determined. One of Frommer’s more attractive elements is the depth of its fully-owned digital assets. This has allowed Frommer’s to beat rivals Fodor’s and Lonely Planet in U.S. web traffic and build a robust licensing program that serves partners such as NYTimes.com, Google rival Bing.com, and the forthcoming Windows 8 system.

Disclosure: Skift co-founder Jason Clampet was till recently the online editor at Frommers.

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