Monday, January 21, 2008

There's a sucker born every minute - Getty Images For Sale!

Often, companies that are worthwhile are fought over, or public announcements of plans to purchase by one company are made by another. It's not that often that someone says "hey, I think I'll sell my company, even though there aren't any buyers that have spoken up..."

Such is the case with Getty Images (NYSE: GYI), who, is now supposedly up for sale, according to the New York Times - Getty Images Up for Sale, Could Fetch $1.5 Billion.

A few interesting insights:

"A sale is not assured, because the tightening of the high-yield debt markets has cut off private equity firms from the lifeblood of their business, making it harder to finance deals."
Which means that when someone offers up $1B, which would be a 2/3 valuation, in the end, that'll mean that the valuation is more along the lines of 2/3 of Friday's stock close, or about $14 a share, assuming the $1.5B valuation was calculated on that closing price. Nice price. Still too much for server rack after server rack of photos,$49 photos,$1 photos, ahem... penny-photos.
“Getty Images continues to be a company in transition, adjusting from being the leading player in an oligopolistic market to being one of many players in a highly competitive market,” Barbara Coffey, a research analyst with Kaufman Brothers, wrote in a research note earlier this month.
I guess "a company in transition" is the latest buzz-phrase for failing companies and business models. The stock already tanked below $22, when Coffey had as her target price $24. Bad call there, and why don't you just call a spade a spade and say, in the words of Gordon Gecko, "this is just another dog with fleas..."
"Still, some analysts worry that other, cheaper rivals could continue undercutting the company’s prices."
No, really? C'mon! Say it ain't so!

I suppose that this will give JDK his easy exit, either with a sale, or the reason he exited being that it didn't sell. Further, this will give Getty/Klein/et al reason to demure and otherwise be tight-lipped during their Q4 call at the end of this month. I suspect we'll hear a lot of "well, in light of our planned sale...", or some other diversionary tactic to distract everyone from the reality that it will be a worse Q4 than even their lowered expectations predicted.

Getty's failed to live up to the maxim - "buy low, sell high". Unless you have some sub-$20/share options, that is, and even then, your time is short to get out before you go underwater.
Note: I have not ever, do not now, and have no plans to hold GYI.
(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

Awesome! Love your sarcasm-

Your Quiet Neighbor said...

Okay, folks, let's dream for a moment. Getty's asking price sure is a lot more than I could pay, but what if a group of photographers, photographer organizations, companies that serve photogragphers pooled their money and bought them?

There's nothing that says that the asking price will be what Getty
ultimately sells for, so what if a cooperative of sorts bought this
company and turned it into something that would benefit us, the customers, and the profession.

Just a bit of Monday morning dreaming...

MikLav said...

wow, the world top photo stock is for sale - this is very impressive news! I didn't really expect it to go that far when I was reading your post few days ago related to low Getty stock price.

Anonymous said...


Just bought your book and have been making time to read your blog archives. Thank you for all the great information. So where does stock go from here? The demise of Getty really doesn't seem to change the economics of stock photography. I have a large collection of architecture images that are collecting dust. I am in the planning stages of what to do with them and honestly I am at a total loss. My gut instinct is to get involved in Microstock because that is the reality of the here and now and I believe the future as well. I also believe that the economics of assignment photography has not changed much at the moment but eventually that will likely change as the technology advances and the prosumers start producing pro quality. I would love to see Getty get bought out by a trade organization such as ASMP and for them to start acting in the best interest of photographers, but will that be enough to hold back the force of change in the industry?

Mark Scheuern said...


Consider PhotoShelter and Alamy good, non-micro alternatives. I'd rather have my images collect dust than give them away on the micro sites. Becoming part of the problem is not the way forward.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comment. I have looked into photoshelter. I have a hard time believing that art buyers are sifting through Photoshelter. I have used Alamy and I removed all my images after zero sales. Over a year there. I went to iStock and snooped around and could not believe the numbers of downloads and the quality of the work. Truly shocked. There are people making very good livings at the micros. From what I have gathered it is just a different way of shooting, efficiency rules the new photography market. Have you seen Ron Chapalles work? This guy is a good and he is all over the micros. At the end of the day I just have to make a decision, is this a hobby or a business. I have been working full time as a photographer for 3 years and surviving off assignment work. While it's true that I love what I do, it's also a business. I understand the concerns of cannibalizing your own arms and legs. But the fact is that the fundamental economics of the business have changed and barring some major altering force, those fundamental economics are not going to change. I have not completely made a decision but it's easy to see which way I am leaning. I currently do not have any images at any agency. I have been doing my research and trying to figure out the best use of my time and where I will get the greatest return on my assets. Most of the arguments for not selling with micros seem to be emotional answers. I don't know if this is the proper forum for this discussion but I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this subject. Thanks.

Mark Scheuern said...


I respect your opinions, of course. I can only say that I've done well with Alamy and, if anything, things have picked up significantly for me there in the last few months. I also have hopes for PhotoShelter. I appreciate their honesty and openness. When I look at the iStock, etc., forums it seems like the main goal is to appeal to ego and the need for instant gratification while deliberately attempting to keep contributors in the dark about the stock business. If anything, it's the micro folks who offer little in the way of rational business thinking. I often see outright lies and disinformation coming from their proponents. In any case, I have no desire to be a part of that in any way.

Keep in mind it's the very early days for PhotoShelter. I'm encouraged by the great content that's appearing there and, again, I think they offer a compelling alternative for both pros and amateurs.

Anonymous said...

Ron Chapple is a major stock shooter and has sold several of his stock companies for serious big bucks. He is a major force in the industry. Personally, I'd rather have dust collect on my images than give them away. Don't believe everything you read about micro being the future. It will be mixed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, save your images -

Ron Chapple laid off most of his staff just before Christmas.

Maybe microstock isn't going that well, even for the old pros.

- fyi -

Anonymous said...

Let's dance on the Getty grave when the company finally dies and is buried.

And to all you whores that submitted images to them; well you can kiss my ass. With a little luck you might get your originals back, but who knows......

Anonymous said...

When Tony Stone Images was one of the best agencies in the world, they were purchased by a little group calling themselves Getty.

There were and still are, a core group of Getty Contributors that are incredibly talented photographers. Many in that group, continue to contribute to the STONE collection and/or the Photographers Choice collection.

Calling a group of photographers who are successful and adaptable business people, whores, is at best, an immature and cheap shot.

To further show your ignorance, most if not all of the "originals" were returned to photographers several years ago when the files went digital.

Tony Stone (the man himself) created an outstanding agency that was an example of doing it right. He and the photographers who were represented by the Tony Stone Agency had nothing to do with Getty's business activities.

Getty is not going to die anytime soon. Yes, change is in the air and that is the reality of life in the world today. Change is constant.

Who knows where this will lead. I know that I am upping my contributions to my other agencies and expect my contributions to Getty to slack off.

For all the talk about whores and selling out, I still make more money from my rights-managed collection of Tony Stone Images than all the other collections or agencies.

Anonymous said...

for all of you who are hoping for the quick and total demise of the getty business, keep in mind that the company also employees people who are trying to make a living themselves and support their families- while i understand the frustration on the part of those photographers who have not been able to navigate the waters of the stock photo business, and while I sympathize with the notion that getty was certainly a calalyst for these changes- (I do believe though that the market would have changed regardless if 'gettyimages' ever existed, it just would have taken longer)- I know there is no one at getty wishing any photographer would lose his/her livelihood, and I think it's pretty distasteful to wish for all of these people to lose their jobs.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the decision to sell was approved by the Getty Images Chief of Staff...

Anyone know how frustrating it is to see someone bank millions in stock options yet be so utterly inept that he's failed in over 5 postions within the company--until he was assigned baggage handler for the CEO, er, um, Chief of Staff?

Oh, and by the way, every single Getty employee should now write an email to the ExCom and tell them where to stick their "Leadership Principles".

Ryan said...

We being the little guys are hoping that the market shifts to photo buyers wanting to use niche stock companies. Like a photo editor uses specific photographers that are right for the project, they will apply this theory to stock photography. Done with the "one stop shop!" I believe this shake up will open up a larger percent of buyers looking to go elsewhere (not Micro Stock). It is a perfect time for new, fresh and unique companies like PhotoShelter or us to join the market and grab some of those buyers.

MikLav said...

Regarding Anonymous post about Ron Chapple - what you are saying is not true.

Ron remains very active in the microstock area. Look at his profile at various sites -,,

It's up, it's big and it's growing. No idea why you are claiming he stopped that.

Whether microstock is a fair business or not; whether it's the future or part of the future in photographic business, this is a business model that does work today; and there are successful photographers within this business model.

Anonymous said...

All the Getty stuff aside; for anyone who's interested, the bear's name is Snowy.

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