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Getty Images Acquired By Combined Bid From Hedge Fund And Leveraged Management Buy Out

by Naresh Sarwan on August 15, 2012

As reported on, Getty Images, who own large swathes of the market for stock media assets have announced today that they have been acquired from former owners, Hellman & Friedman by a combined buy out consisting of The Carlyle Group, a private equity hedge fund (or ‘alternative asset manager’ as they prefer to be known), Getty Images Co-Founder and Chairman Mark Getty, the Getty family, Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Klein and selected members of the current Getty Images management.  The transaction was completed for $3.3bn (US) according to this Reuters article:

Mark Getty, the co-founder and chairman, and the Getty family will put nearly all their ownership interests into the deal, and co-founder and Chief Executive Jonathan Klein will also invest equity in the company.  Getty, which competes with Reuters News and the Associated Press in the market for images for editorial use, plans to expand further in Asia and Latin America and build on products such as Thinkstock and Connect, Klein told Reuters.  Getty, which for the first time shot images at the Summer Olympic Games in London in 3-D and 360-degree formats using robotic cameras, is changing private equity hands as the media landscape becomes hyper-competitive.” [Read More]

Hellman & Friedman reportedly made an ‘outstanding’ profit on the deal, having acquired Getty for $2.4bn in 2008 (in addition to the dividends received over that period).   The numbers involved in this acquisition illustrates how the stock media industry has become highly stratified with a very small number of providers now controlling the majority of the income from stock media sales while nearly all other photographers and smaller libraries struggle to make ends meet.

One can only envisage the stock media industry becoming an even harder place for newcomers or small scale operations to do business.  Not only do they need to take on multi-billion dollar operations like Getty, but there is also the ever present problem of having your work taken and used illegally.  As discussed in David Diamond’s article for DAM News last week, DRM might help you identify infringement, but unless you have the legal clout (and money) to do something against an infringer, then it provides limited opportunity to protect revenue streams from your intellectual property.  To add to those challenges, government sponsored ‘orphan works’ legislation that will allow anyone to legally use any works where the owner’s rights have not been formally asserted.

This does give the impression (to me) that the opportunity to generate worthwhile revenue from collections of digital assets is in serious decline, unless you are already very well established.  In many ways these libraries may be better viewed as ‘free samples’ of what can be produced by a media producer (e.g. photographer or video director).  Over the next few weeks we intend to cover this subject in more detail.

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