Open Thread Thursday: Ancestry.com Sold; No Time to Panic

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

On Monday, October 22, Ancestry.com announced that Permira Funds – a European private equity firm – had entered into a merger agreement to purchase Ancestry for $32.00 per share, or $1.6 billion (US). The devil is in the details, of course, and the details we know so far can be seen here in the official Ancestry.com press release.

While the genealogy community has known about the pending Ancestry sale since June of this year, there are still questions concerning the direction to be taken in terms of Ancestry’s products and services.

Will there be major, or even minor, changes? What impact will the sale have on the professional genealogy segment and related businesses that depend upon Ancestry’s content? Or will there be no noticeable change and a “business as usual” course of action taken by management?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.

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Well I’ve been tracking this story since June and here at GeneaBloggers we discussed various possible buyers for Ancestry.com including Google, Facebook and other entities. I was disappointed that Ancestry.com’s Q3 2012 financial earnings conference call scheduled for this afternoon was cancelled, now I can understand why . . . it makes no sense to have a call to keep investors informed and to answer Wall Street analyst questions when the company is on its way from public to private.

So while my initial reaction yesterday was disappointment (yes, I actually looked forward to those calls each quarter!), it is not some plot to keep information private.  It is a common practice when a company is under a sale agreement with a private entity.

What concerns me more right now, is what I am hearing about Ancestry.com.

Sound Research Counts . . . Even In Business Deals

If you were to look at comments on social media, you’d think the genealogical sky was falling:

I am hearing it is now owned by a British firm and that the SSDI will no longer be available for free…but now all services will have an added charge attached to it??

Seriously? Are we playing the childhood game of Operator here?

So someone can purport to be serious about their family’s history, have mad skills when it comes to researching, yet they can’t even take the time to gather all the facts publicly available about a company being sold?  Unfortunately, comments like those above, posted to Ancestry’s Facebook page, abound.  I would have serious doubts about trusting such a person’s genealogy research . . .

Seriously folks.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Research, and sound research at that, is the backbone of genealogy.  It continues to amaze me that some  in the genealogy field can tell you in exacting detail how to find a Palatine ancestor who settled in the Albany area in the early 1700s, yet they would rather make a guess or an unsubstantiated claim about Ancestry.com’s future than research facts and put together a solid theory.

One only has to look at Ancestry’s Investor Relations page for the latest official news and financial figures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Or use a Google Alert to stay on top of what Wall Street analysts and others are saying about the Ancestry.com sale.

Keep Calm and Search On

If change does come to Ancestry.com, I don’t expect it to be sudden or radical in nature.  Why? Well, first off, it seems that the same management team will be kept in place by Permira according to Monday’s announcement:

Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com’s President and Chief Executive Officer, and Howard Hochhauser, Ancestry.com’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, will maintain a majority of their equity stakes in the company as part of the transaction. Spectrum Equity will also remain an investor in the company.

Second, the current business model is working and making money for the stockholders and I expect it will make a profit for Permira. Why should Ancestry.com veer from its mission which according to its website is:

We provide ongoing value to our subscribers by regularly adding new historical content, enhancing our websites with new tools and features and enabling greater collaboration among our users through the growth of our global community. Our plan to achieve long-term and sustainable growth is to increase our subscriber base in the United States and around the world by serving our loyal base of existing subscribers and by attracting new subscribers;

Time will tell what Permira decides to tweak in terms of Ancestry’s products and services. But I  expect such changes to happen over the course of months and years, not days or weeks.  Until then, I’m going to keep calm and use Ancestry as I always have to find more about my ancestors, and about myself.

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This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure:  Please see Disclosure Statements for more information on my material connection with genealogy vendors and organizations.

©2012, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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About Thomas MacEntee

What happens when a “tech guy” with a love for history gets laid off during The Great Recession of 2008? You get Thomas MacEntee, a genealogy professional who’s also a blogger, educator, author, social media connector, online community builder and more. Thomas was laid off after a 25-year career in the information technology field, so he started his own genealogy-related business called High Definition Genealogy. He also created an online community of over 3,000 family history bloggers known as GeneaBloggers. His most recent endeavor, Hack Genealogy, is an attempt to “re-purpose today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogy.” Thomas describes himself as a lifelong learner with a background in a multitude of topics who has finally figured out what he does best: teach, inspire, instigate, and serve as a curator and go-to-guy for concept nurturing and inspiration. Thomas is a big believer in success, and that we all succeed when we help each other find success.

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