August 15th, 2012

Getty Images Sold to Carlyle Group for $3.3 Billion

Getty Images, the largest stock photo archive, has been sold to private equity firm the Carlyle Group for $3.3 billion, according to Bloomberg, Reuters, and other sources. The sale comes three months after Hellman & Friedman, the private equity firm that has owned Getty Images since 2008, began preparations to sell the stock agency.

According to a statement released today by the Carlyle Group, Getty co-founders Jonathan Klein and Mark Getty will invest “significant equity” in the company.

Hellman & Friedman was reported to have paid $2.4 billion to buy Getty in 2008. According to news reports back in May, the firm was hoping to get as much as $4 billion for the agency.  (Full disclosure: Hellman & Friedman also owns Nielsen, parent company of PDN.)

In the past year, Getty Images has taken several cost-cutting measures. These included introducing  new terms to its contracts with photographer/contributors, cutting back royalties it pays to photographers,  and telling contributors that rights-managed images that had not sold well would be moved to royalty-free collections, while the royalty-free images would be sold as part of subscription packages. Through a statement, Getty Images told PDN that changes to its contributor contracts were needed “so that more content can be used in more ways that help our business meet current and future customer needs and grow sales.”

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Getty Images Preps for IPO?

Reuters reports that Getty Images, the largest stock photo agency, has retained Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to evaluate the possibility of a sale or an initial public offering (IPO). According to a source cited by the Financial Times, a sale or IPO could value the company at $4 billion.

Since 2008, the stock agency has been owned by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. (Full disclosure: Hellman & Friedman also owns Nielsen, parent company of PDN.) Hellman was reported to have paid $2.4 billion, or $34.00 per share, for the agency which had previously been a publicly traded company.

Since Getty Images went private, the company has not disclosed any financial data to the public. The agency has made cost-cutting measures in the past year that have affected photographers who contribute to the agency. For example, last year Getty introduced tough new contracts, cutting back royalties it pays to photographers,  telling contributors that rights-managed images that have not sold well will be moved to royalty-free collections while the royalty-free images would be sold as part of subscription packages.

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