Featured Business Leader Tony Wheeler

Featured Business Leader  Tony Wheeler


As the co-founder of the Lonely Planet publishing company, Tony Wheeler is certainly a success story to examine. What you may not know about him however is his strong educational background, and the path to this great success. Born in England in 1946, Wheeler was not shy to the travelling life. His father, an airport manager for British Overseas Airways Corporation, moved the family around due to work commitments meaning that Wheeler grew up in a range of countries including Pakistan, the Bahamas, Canada, America and England.

Coming from humble beginnings, Wheeler worked to obtain his engineering degree from Warwick University, followed by his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from London Business School. It was after his graduation in 1972 that he and his wife Maureen decided to take an extended holiday in Asia with very little funds. Upon completion of the holiday, inspired by their ability to travel on a budget, the pair wrote their first travel guide. Duly titled Across Asia on the Cheap, this success of a travel guide was closely followed by their second book South-East Asia On A Shoestring. From there, Lonely Planet publications grew over many years to become the world’s largest independent guidebook publisher with offices in several locations around the world.

In 2007, BBC Worldwide purchased 75% of The Lonely Planet, followed by the remaining 25% in 2011. Whilst Wheeler currently has no formal role for the organisation, he remains closely associated. Upon the selling of his shares, he and wife Maureen established Planet Wheeler, a not-for-profit charity which works to support ‘practical and effective projects which make a difference in the alleviation of poverty’. With over 50 projects in the developing world being funded by the charity, it is clear that philanthropy is another important passion of Wheeler’s.

Currently, Tony Wheeler remains a prominent entrepreneur, author and philanthropist in Australia. With publishing interest in Text Publishing in Australia and a board position for the Global Heritage Fund, he is a man of many interests. Wheeler was also a guest speaker at a 2013 TEDx event in Queenstown, discussing the topic ‘The Road Less Travelled’. In 2014, both he and Maureen were also appointed Officers of the Order of Australia for “distinguished service to business and commerce as a publisher of travel guides, and as a benefactor to a range of Australian arts and organisations”.

Through his achievements, Tony Wheeler teaches us that with the right knowledge base and a passion for a particular cause or industry – success is possible. Upon completion of his MBA, it took him only a few short years to turn an idea into reality, and build the business up.

Are you inspired after learning of Wheeler’s story? I would love to hear what you think of his journey, and if you found it to be of relevance. Alternatively, if you would like to see another business leader profiled, please feel free to comment your suggestions below.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to complete this article: Tony WheelerTEDx, and Chaing Mai News

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