Ancestry.com Owners Aim to Extract $900 Million Payout With Loan

From an article by Davide Scigliuzzo in the Bloomberg.com web site

“The owners of Ancestry.com Inc., the DNA analysis and family tree company, are turning to a well-tested private equity play for taking cash out of a company: topping up on debt.

“An investor group led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and private equity firm Silver Lake Management LLC is looking to pull out more than $900 million from the company through a special dividend mostly funded by new borrowings. They are also seeking approval for another one-time distribution before year-end.”

The same article also states:

“Both Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings lowered their outlook on the company in response to the latest dividend plans and a slowdown in revenue growth.

“S&P said it will be difficult for the company to continue to grow revenues from its core subscription service at the same pace it did in the past, because of limitations on the size of the market and high churn.”

You can read the full story at: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ancestry-com-owners-aim-extract-160436335.html.

14 Comments

Not good. Keep your local version of any information at Ancestry.com up to date at all times. Sync often.

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    I agree. My latest version keeps having problems. I know Ancestry.com has a lot of subscribers but that is no reason for their website not to work correctly after the amount of money we spend to use it yearly!

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How do you sync? This is what I have long feared. Many years of research down the drain.

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    Virginia B-You can download a GEDCOM of your tree on Ancestry.com and import it into another website or to a stand alone program on your computer. There are a lot of programs with free trial versions.
    Directions for downloading your tree from Ancestry.com are found here:
    https://support.ancestry.com/s/article/Uploading-and-Downloading-Trees
    I don’t think it will download any pictures or documents that you have attached to people on your tree. That would have to be downloaded separately. Good Luck, Carrie T

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    Thanks so much for this info, Carrie. I will have to work on this.

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Greed triumphant. All of our work there will go down the tubes when Ancestry folds. It didn’t have to be like this.

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Fears for the future of this service are well justified.

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So, in the most cynical terms, the owners/investors are stripping the company including borrowing to fund a disbursement of a “dividend” to said owners/investors and have most likely pledged all the assets….including at that genealogical and DNA information access to the new lenders. Paying off the old debt has the direct effet of removing any claim againt all that information from the prior lenders. And why is this important–beyond the probability that the company may stop operating and take our information (including DNA info) with it? Just imagine that the new loan being sold to one or more of the big bio-research firms who then contend that they are the legal owners of both the personal genealogy material as well as the DNA. Well, this could be interesting. And very very messy.

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I’m not quite as pessimistic, but at the same time, I think no serious genealogist should depend solely on Ancestry. I use Family Tree Maker and it syncs extremely well. RootsMagic will sync, but not as easily so I gave it up. Even a basic genealogy software program will import a GEDCOM from Ancestry, if not media. Keep copies of records, photos, etc. on a hard drive and backed up elsewhere. Download your DNA data and take screen shots or notes on the most important matches to you. Consider using other subscription services like MyHeritage or contribute to FamilySearch’s free Family Tree. Share on social media, create websites, write articles for genealogy publications, join a lineage group or a genealogy society that preserves members’ research, donate organized research to a genealogy library. All of your work doesn’t have to disappear, but it needs your attention. Save it, preserve it, and distribute it in different formats and multiple places.

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Not good. Too many private equity “investors” use this technique to generate financial rape of companies which many times eventually leads to bankruptcy. Be sure to use Family Maker and/or Roots magic to maintain your work on your own computer,

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Might be a good time to download your AncestryDNA Raw data file and matchlist to your home computer and transfer a copy of your raw DNA results to My Heritage and Family Tree DNA if you haven’t already done so, just in case.

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Perhaps it is time for those of us who have our trees on our home computers and our documents also saved there to congratulate ourselves upon our wisdom. Having previously held stock in a company that did a like thing ,to keep up with technological improvements ,I can attest to the fact that the result may be go belly up or be swallowed.

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Remember that Ancestry also owns Find-a-Grave (which was promised would remain outside their pay-wall as a free site, as well as Fold3 and possibly others.

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I suspect that they might sell off / divest their smaller “genealogy” sites like Fold3, Newspapers, and Find-a-Grave first.
Their monthly subscription service for “genealogy” doesn’t seem to be profitable on it’s own, so another dark scenario would be them charging an even higher monthly subscription fee for the casual DNA tester, or the desperate adoptees, to view new matches or receive “updates” to whatever health risk tests they start offering.
At this point I’m strongly considering dumping Ancestry and taking my bag of marbles over to MyHeritage / Geni.
Ancestry’s search algorithm and “ThruLines” have done nothing but make the crowd sourcing, unattributed tree data worse.
I shudder to think of what will happen when they start selling off pieces of the business to companies who put user privacy / security and data quality even lower on the priority list.

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