Investment firm buys controlling interest in Ancestry
Lots of reader questions coming in to The Legal Genealogist in the last few days all focus on one issue: “What do you think of the sale of Ancestry?”
The questions come from the announcement this week that Blackstone — a New York-based investment firm — had agreed to buy a 75% stake in Ancestry from other investment firms, Silver Lake, Spectrum Equity and Permira. The other 25% will continue to be held by GIC, an investment fund based in Singapore.1
So… what do I think of the buy-out of some investment company interests by other investment company interests?
Not a single darned thing… until and unless we see if the outcome is a shift in focus by the new controlling interests.
First off, there’s nothing any individual Ancestry subscriber can do about this kind of big money ownership. It’s a fact of life in the business world these days, and genealogy is big business. If we want to use the resources of a company like Ancestry, we’re accepting the simple reality that the owners are going to be big financial firms whose one and only interest in us is how much we’re willing to pay.
Oh, sure, we can end our subscriptions, pull our DNA test results, and break off all connection with Ancestry. But why? Because one big business interest bought out another big business interest? The new buyers here have been big investors in things like Hilton.2 I’m not going to switch hotels because of that.
Secondly, there’s an enormous amount of inertia in the operation of any business, and the bigger the business the more powerful the tendency not to change things. Changing course — even for the better — is hard and takes time and significant effort. Since Ancestry today has and for the foreseeable future will have a ton of features I want to use in my research, I’m not going to do a thing differently than I do today.
Now… that’s not carte blanche to Ancestry or to any company taking my money to disregard my needs and those of my fellow researchers as we move forward. If we should see a course change, for good or for ill, we can decide at that time what we can and should do in response. I certainly hope things might improve, in which case I’ll offer thanks and kudos. If they should begin to change for the worse, I’ll decide then what action I might be able to take as a subscriber, including walking with my dollars.
But in the meantime, what do I think about the sale of Ancestry?
I think it’s business as usual.
And — for now — I’m not changing a thing in my own business dealings with Ancestry.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Business as usual,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 7 Aug 2020).
- See e.g. Chibuike Oguh, “Blackstone to acquire Ancestry.com for $4.7 billion,” Reuters.com, posted 5 Aug 2020 (https://www.reuters.com/ : accessed 7 Aug 2020). ↩
- See Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.com), “The Blackstone Group,” rev. 5 Aug 2020. ↩