Ancestry.com sells for $1.6 billion

A European private equity firm will pay a 10% premium for the genealogy and family tree titan.

By Jason Notte Oct 22, 2012 3:42PM

Image: Couple looking at computer - CorbisHow much would you guess your family tree is worth? If your estimate falls anywhere below the $1.6 billion European firm Permira is about to pay for Ancestry.com (ACOM), dream bigger.


Online genealogy giant Ancestry.com agreed to the sale Monday for a nearly 9.7% premium on Friday's closing share price and 41% more than shares were worth when the company first explored a sale back in June.


Share prices have more than doubled since Ancestry.com first went public in 2009 and attracted other bids from private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and TPG Capital. That's not shabby for a Provo, Utah, company that began by putting Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints documents on floppy disk in the early 1990s and expanded into a database of 2 million paying subscribers, 10 billion records and nearly 40 million family trees.


Permira's paying a steep price, but Ancestry's pretty substantial for a seemingly one-note company. When the impending sale was announced, Ancestry.com's market cap was $1.3 billion. Its stable of products includes genealogy sites Genealogy.com, MyFamily.com, ProGenealogists, and Rootsweb.com, genealogy software Family Tree Maker and Footnote.com, which holds billions of images of historical records.


It also hosts versions of those sites in Australia, Canada, China and several countries throughout Europe. In the first quarter of this year alone, its sites brought in nearly 1.9 million users. After Ancestry.com brought in Qatalyst Partners as an adviser while considering a sale of the company, it discovered that the site reached roughly 8.5 million unique users in the U.S. alone throughout its existence.


While myriad other non-profit and faith-based genealogical services exist, Ancestry.com is about as mainstream as the family history business gets. It partnered with NBC for its reality show "Who Do You Think You Are?" and spent three seasons helping celebrities like Spike Lee, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rashida Jones trace their family histories before the series was canceled earlier this year.


Even the seemingly benign genealogy business carries some risk for a heavily invested buyer like Permian, though. Late last year, Ancestry.com came under fire for listing the Social Security numbers of recently deceased through the Social Security Master File. While those numbers can be of great help to families trying to map out their family trees, they're also sought-after commodities among identity thieves.


Ancestry has since done away with Social Security numbers of people who have died in the last 10 years and have put the Social Security Death Index behind a pay wall. As its selling price suggests, Ancestry's business is far more serious than fleeting family hobbies or one-off class projects.


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13Comments
Oct 22, 2012 4:34PM
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Does this mean that that European firm will have access to all our family background information? What risk will there be for identity theft?

Oct 22, 2012 6:35PM
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Better yet. What are the annual fees going to be now that it is European owned? I think this may be my last year with Ancestry. Guess I'd better get my butt in gear and start searching through the Worldwide Records now that I'm done with the U.S. records. This is totally ridiculous! Ancestry should've notified it's subscribers prior to doing this so that we had a head's up and not seen it in the news. For all the years I've been a member, this upsets me the most. It almost appears that Ancestry has let us all down. For years, they've been gobbling up other sites that were free or cheaper than them to the point where there are none left and we had no choice but to subscribe with them, and now they do this? So very wrong. Guess it just goes to show it's all about the money and not the search. Shame!
Oct 22, 2012 5:00PM
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Well I was thinking of using Ancestry, but not if it is owned by Europeans.
Oct 22, 2012 6:48PM
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I hope no one uses this site any longer. They should not hold people's family information hostage in order to line their own pockets. It will take a little more digging but, if you can correspond with the record bureaus from the places your family is known to, or suspected of, being from, you can still access that information for free. You can write or call these places and more than likely there will be someone that will be willing to help you. FOR FREE! Screw you Ancestry and the business that bought you too!
Feb 2, 2013 8:01AM
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The internet IS NOT SAFE!!!

 

You put your personal family information online for the world to see!

 

Read the membership and privacy agreement...most people do not read or understand the agreement.

 

I refuse to use ANY online genealogy becouse they break apart your family info and sell it piece by piece making billions.

 

Use a program that is NOT ONLINE such as ROOTS MAGIC, your personal family info is secure ON YOURE OWN COMPUTER not someone elses.

 

I have used ROOTSMAGIC for several years now, it is a very good, INEXPENSIVE program.

The major difference between ROOTSMAGIC and ANCESTRY.COM is that your you MUST USE YOUR BRAIN to search for your family, ancestry.com basically gives info to you to make it easy so more people will sign up = MORE MONEY FOR THEM!

 

 

Oct 22, 2012 4:29PM
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Correction: Third paragraph second sentence should read "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".
Oct 22, 2012 5:43PM
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I love Ancestry.  The site helped me to locate a family that I did not know was still living.
Oct 24, 2012 10:25AM
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I guess its time to make our family tree at home instead of putting it out there, we can put our email out and people can directly come too us. I am not paying the extra 10.00. It is expensive anyway, I guess traveling is in the works.
Oct 22, 2012 6:25PM
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well,i went as far as i could afford anyway.guess its beleave what you heard/told and thats it.
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