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Sale Rumors Swirl Around Getty Images


Market rumors were ignited in January, claiming that Seattle-based Getty Images, the world's leading distributor of visual content, had put itself on the market, with offers pending, mostly from private-equity firms, that could total $1.6 billion.

The New York Times first broke the story Jan. 21 with information from "people briefed on the situation" and listed Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital as interested parties.

Getty Images responded with a release stating that its policy is to neither confirm nor deny market rumors, but it did announce that it is "exploring strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value." The release also stated that the company has "held discussions with interested parties, but there can be no assurance that any transaction will occur."

The company released its fourth-quarter earnings Jan. 31 and claimed a profit of $28.5 million, a 7.7 percent drop from the $30.9 million earned during the same quarter a year ago. Through key acquisitions that include PhotoDisc, iStockphoto.com, and MediaVast and its subsidiary WireImage, Getty Images has become the leader in commercial stock photography. In March 2007, Getty Images was involved in discussions that could have led to the potential buyout of Jupiterimages, one of its closest competitors.

With rumors of a possible sale, Getty stock climbed nearly 13 percent the day after the Times article was published. The previous week, its stock hit a five-year low at $21.74.

Over the last few years, Getty has come under close scrutiny from regulators due to the backdating of stock options for executives. Photographers also balked when Getty chose to offer low-resolution versions of its entire collection at a price of $49.