Blackstone buys majority stake in Ancestry.com for $4.7bn

The Utah-based group is the world’s largest online family history tracer with 3m paying subscribers and $1bn in annual revenue

Blackstone has agreed to buy a majority stake in Ancestry.com, a website known for tracing family history, in a deal valued at $4.7bn (€3.9bn, 3.5£bn) including debt. 

The private equity group will receive a close to 75 per cent stake in the company, in the first big purchase for Blackstone’s latest buyout fund.  

“We believe Ancestry has significant runway for further growth as people of all ages and backgrounds become increasingly interested in learning more about their family histories and themselves,” David Kestnbaum, a senior managing director at Blackstone, said in a statement.

The family history group also offers DNA testing and has branched out into genomics in recent years, with the company last month saying that its scientists had identified a DNA link that could explain why coronavirus “seems to take a greater toll on men than women”.  

This month it launched a screening service designed to test individuals’ risk of developing inheritable health conditions such as heart disease, breast cancer and colon cancer.  

The company’s rival in consumer DNA testing 23andMe has teamed up with UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to identify potential drug candidates and the companies plan to launch a clinical trial later this year.

The Utah-based group is the world’s largest online family history tracer with 3m paying subscribers and $1bn in annual revenue. The company, which originated in the 1980s as a genealogical magazine, allows subscribers to search through its extensive database or send in a DNA sample to trace their family tree.

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Ancestry’s total revenue fell 1.2 per cent in 2019 as sales in its DNA unit dropped 48 per cent, according to a report. 

In February, Margo Georgiadis, Ancestry’s chief executive and president, announced the company would lay off 6 per cent of its workforce due to a slowdown in demand for its DNA product.  

Blackstone is the third private equity group to invest in the company in the space of eight years.

London-based Permira bought Ancestry in 2012 at a $1.6bn valuation, taking it private three years after it had listed on the Nasdaq exchange.  In 2016 Permira sold most of its stake to US buyout group Silver Lake and the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, in a transaction that valued the company at about $2.6bn. 

Under the Blackstone deal, GIC will keep a minority stake. 

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