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Gavin talks to private backers about BBC Worldwide sale

LONDON - The departing chief executive of BBC Worldwide, Rupert Gavin, has approached private backers to discuss a management buyout of the BBC's commercial arm, according to reports.

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Possible backers for the venture include Apax Partners, HG Capital, Candover Investments and 3i.

Gavin announced his decision to stand down from the chief executive's post last week after the BBC announced a review of all its commercial operations. At the time, he said: "If a decision were eventually made to dispose of BBC Worldwide, I would obviously at that stage look closely at the possibility of making a bid."

There has been speculation that the new director-general, Mark Thompson, is considering a sale of BBC Worldwide, which has marketing rights to the corporation's programmes and tie-ins, as well as housing the magazine publishing division and other related merchandise such as books, DVDs and music. The sale could net as much as £1bn for the BBC.

Last year, the BBC's commercial arm had revenues of £657m and made a profit of £37m. BBC Worldwide created a cash return for the BBC of £141m.

John Smith, chief executive officer of the BBC, will report on the review of the BBC's commercial businesses in December. Gavin will assist on handover issues until his departure in October.

Before joining the BBC, Gavin was director of information, communications and entertainment at BT, and then promoted to director of multimedia services. In 1997, he was made managing director of BT's consumer division.

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