Archive for February, 2008

Getty Images Agrees to $2.1B Buyout

Monday, February 25th, 2008

So Getty Images is going to be sold to Hellman & Friedman LLC, a private equity group. This sad move does not come as a surprise as Getty Images was openly up for sale since January. Their core business of selling expensive photographs to newspapers and magazines has been struggling for quite a while, with more and more of their customers turning to other, cheaper sources, most importantly to the many royalty-free stockphoto sites that sell images with unlimited use from as little as $1. Some publishers even turn to free image sources to reduce cost. Certainly this industry-wide move has also affected Getty Images.

Hellman & Friedman seem to be not the worst choice for Getty Images, though. They have transformed other digital businesses as well, among them DoubleClick which was sold to Google last year. Getty Images will remain an excellent source for photos, even if the new owners need to quickly come up with alternative business models and new pricing schemes. This may sound scary and might change the commercial photo landscape ultimately, but I think it is a necessary move as it does not make sense to ignore that the ship has been sinking slowly. Now, there is at least some hope for some of the employees.

Stock owners might be happy about the sale: Hellman & Friedman are paying a hefty 39% premium on Getty Images’ stock price (compared to Friday’s closing price), offering $34 per share.

However, only the new owners can judge whether their vision (which they must have) will actually re-vitalize the company to justify the premium they are going to pay. I guess they can hardly reduce cost as the organization is already running quite lean. So they need to look at ramping-up revenue to increase profit, i.e. to grab a bigger piece of cheaper market segments. If I were to consult Getty Images, I’d suggest turning Getty Images into a “Flickr for top photographers”. Make it easy for anyone to upload and sell stellar photos, offer a nice revenue share for each sale, and quickly lure all the talented semi-pro photographers away from Flickr.

It remains to be seen how the employees will be affected by the change. I think their picture editors should be OK as they really have an eye to judge incoming images. But their staff photographers and stringers might be in for quite a bumpy ride. Should Getty Images indeed open up to cheaper market segments, their photographers will compete directly with those cheaper image sources. And this means “less money” for them.

I wish the colleagues at Getty Images good luck in these increasingly difficult times!

Barcelona, the Mobile World Congress, and Robert Redford

Monday, February 18th, 2008

One of my clients asked me to be the stills photographer for a video production last week in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress 2008. Of course, I agreed. How could anyone in their right mind reject fleeing from cold and boring Munich to the sunny and buzzing Barcelona?

The video production was scheduled to last for the whole period of the Congress, which has become one of the key attractions of the city in February each year. For four nights, the city then becomes home to thousands of managers, who can be found anywhere, especially in the evenings. At 13 degrees Celsius, it was already pleasantly warm, and we had only one morning of rain. The whole crew was happy and completed each day on time.

Thus, we had earned the fantastic Spanish food, and we found the ultimate place, which I would like to share with you: Sagardi, a traditional tapas bar and tavern in the heart of the city (Argenteria 62, tel. 902.520.522, www.sagardi.com). What a great place! Friendly waitresses and waiters, affordable prices, a vibrant atmosphere dominated by mostly locals. Ah, and fantastic tapas, presented on dishes along the counter, with a fresh supply coming every other minute from the kitchen. If you visit Barcelona, do not miss this place!

Anyway, between shootings I took a look around through the exhibition halls. The Mobile World Congress had nothing too exciting; there were a lot of mobile devices (naturally), often shown by beautiful presenters; and there were many software companies, but also new players from the Internet and content business. And while I was walking along hall 7, all of sudden there was an unusual activity as security staff were asking visitors to make room for – a VIP. And there he was: Robert Redford, one of Hollywood’s legends, visiting the booth of Mofilm (www.mofilm.com), a company specialized on movie distribution to mobile phone users. Redford was joined by Isabella Rossellini, and they took their time to see the presentation at the booth. So I now have a photo of Robert Redford in my archives as well. Nice. :-)

Robert Redford

Anyway, as we hardly got out of the fairgrounds during daylight, I’ll let the few photos I took speak for themselves. Enjoy!

MWC 2008 Barcelona - Queue at the opening day
Queue of visitors at the opening day of Mobile World Congress 2008
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

View across the Barcelona fairgrounds, with the mighty palace in the back
View across the Barcelona fairgrounds, with the mighty palace in the back
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Barcelona Fira
Hall 6 vanishes behind the central fountain of the fira
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

View across Barcelona fairgrounds
View across Barcelona fairgrounds in the morning
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Fair Beauties from Nvidia
Fair beauties from Nvidia
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

A lonely visitor to the fair types on his computer
A lonely visitor to the fair types on his computer
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

A mobile phone user looks across the fairgrounds
A mobile phone user looks across the fairgrounds
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Graffiti in the streets of Barcelona
Sprayed slogan in the streets of Barcelona, opposite of our appartment
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Bookshop in the old town of Barcelona
Bookshop in the old town of Barcelona
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

See more photos of Barcelona from my 2006 archive.