Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Blackstone to Acquire for $4.7 Billion - My Comments

The news today had Blackstone, an investment company, acquiring 75% of for 4.7 billion dollars.

1)  The Ancestry blog post has this:
"Blackstone today announced that the private equity fund it manages has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Ancestry®. 
"Blackstone’s acquisition will further accelerate Ancestry’s global leadership in Family History and consumer genomics, helping us achieve our mission to empower journeys of personal discovery to enrich lives. The Blackstone team is deeply inspired by our mission, aligned with our strategy and is confident in our prospects for the future. They share our purpose and passion for delivering great experiences for our customers. That includes upholding our commitment to protecting our customers’ privacy and being good stewards of their data. Our robust consumer privacy and data protections remain unchanged under our new ownership.
"Looking ahead, in collaboration with Blackstone, we will continue to leverage our unique content and technology platform to expand our global Family History business while bringing to life our long-term vision of personalized, preventive health.
"We are grateful to our valued members and vibrant community for their continued trust and support. 
"We are thrilled to partner with Blackstone and believe that together we can continue to inspire millions more people to discover their family story and gain actionable insights about their health and wellness."

2)  Several geneabloggers have commented already, notably (and I will add more to the list later):

*  Thomas MacEntee - and
The Facebook post has comments from many people.

*  Roberta Estes -

*  Judy G. Russell -

3)  For some history about and acquisitions:

4)  My comments and observations:

*  This is a private investment company that took 75% of the equity in  They will probably put some of their own people on the Board of Directors and perhaps in the President and CEO office.  As an investment firm, their goal is to improve companies they invest in to make money for their investors.

*  Ancestry has 3 million subscribers who do genealogical research on, some (many?) of whom have taken the DNA test.  The business is based on family trees, online genealogy records, professional services, and DNA testing.  There is a significant churn rate - several years ago it was 5-6% a month - meaning subscribers drop off each month, new customers subscribe each month, but the total number of subscribers has steadily increased over the years.  The genealogy and family history is and has been the main continuing source of revenue IMHO.

*  The challenge for Ancestry has always been to find new customers on a year-round basis - hence the advertising, the television program support, and the ongoing new content.  This has to continue in order to keep revenues, and profits, increasing.

*  The DNA autosomal test bubble may be over (18 million one-time customers paid one time for a DNA test), but the AncestryHealth function is relatively new and may be what really drove this acquisition.  There is a significant team in place, and they may be ready to significantly increase the quantity and quality of the health information provided.  They might go to a subscription model in the future as the capabilities improve.

*  Thomas MacEntee seems to think that the DNA test/analysis pieces of may be spun off into a new company by Blackstone at some time.  Because of the Blackstone interest in growing their life sciences group, this may happen if/when the AncestryDNA/AncestryHealth part of the company can be profitable and self-sustaining.   The AncestryHealth feature might become a monthly subscription service.  Or it may not happen at all - the genealogy piece of Ancestry still generates most of the ongoing revenue for the company, and a Health test is also a one-time investment (at this time), and the only real unique analysis tool that Ancestry provides to DNA matches is the ThruLines, which depends on Ancestry Member Trees.  I think they will stay linked for a long time.

*  This purchase of Ancestry surely includes all of the satellite websites and subsidiaries like Find A Grave, Fold3,, ProGenealogists, Archives, RootsWeb, etc.  The optimist in me hopes that we may see continued improvements in content, searches, and presentation to these sites.

*  We need to watch carefully what happens with changes to the Ancestry Board, to the commitments to new genealogy content, to new DNA tools, to the continued support of the websites and subsidiaries, to the staffing, to the television programs, and to the Ancestry technology infrastructure.

*  Will subscription prices go up?  Will pieces be sold off?  Will more acquisitions occur?  Will the company grow or shrivel?  Will customer service improve?  Only time will tell.  With many in the Boomers generation (1945 to 1965) reaching or at retirement age, this may be the start of something bigger as a retirement pastime.

*  I love change.  Not all change is progress, but all progress comes from change.  Ancestry is the biggest player on the field, but there is significant competition on the field and a lot of customers in the stands rooting for all of the players to be winners.  Competition keeps subscription prices down and content and processes improving so that customers are winners too.

What do you think?  Tell me in comments!


Disclosure: I have a complimentary all-access subscription from, for which I am thankful. has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years.

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Diane Gould Hall said...

Thank you for your thoughts on this Randy. You’ve been around this for a long time and I respect your input. I will choose to be optimistic as well. I don’t recall the last sale in 2009 having much effect on my use of the site. It remains my every day "go to" site. I subscribe to others, but visit them sporadically.
Here’s hoping for a bright future for Ancestry and all of us.

Bill said...


Thanks for your comments and for providing the links to others. Also agree about preferring an optimistic view. My main hope is along the lines of Roberta's - that investment will be made in bringing the main family tree functions back to the level of efficiency and response that we experienced up to 3 or so years ago. Although it's gotten a little bit better in the past few months, it still gets a "D" rating from my standpoint. (Interestingly, DNA function response time is excellent and will hopefully be more so with the 6-8 cm elimination -- I assume because it's new code designed for cloud server efficiency.)

However..."trust but verify". I'm very concerned about the health side/Human Diversity initiatives and what could become of personal data shared from that score. Blackstone is not a company that is interested in 5-10% profit margins, they go for much more. How might they do that beyond the family tree/base business that is growing albeit not at double digit rates? Hard to puzzle out, but it makes me even more reluctant to share anything on the personal characteristics/health side for the 15 family and friend DNA tests that I manage...

Bill Greggs