Carlyle teams buy Getty Images

August 15, 2012

The Carlyle Group and Getty Images management have paid $3.3 billion to buy Getty Images from the San Francisco-based investment firm Hellman & Friedman.

The move by Carlyle is a bet that Getty’s massive photo and digital archives will grow in popularity as the media proliferates on the web.

The Washington-based private equity giant will have a majority stake in Getty Images, while Getty Images co-founder Mark Getty and the Getty family will maintain an ownership interest, according to a statement. Getty co-founder Jonathan Klein also will hold a significant investment in the firm.

Founded in 1995, Getty, based in Seattle, holds the rights to tens of millions of still images and film stock footage that it supplies to businesses and consumers. It also expanding its footprint around the world, particularly in Asia and Latin America, to acquire live photos and other content. For the first time, for instance, Getty shot images in 3-D at the London Olympics, according to Reuters.

“Demand for visual imagery continues to explode in the digital world,” said Carlyle managing director Eliot Merrill. “Getty is the leader in that space.”

Co-founder Getty is an heir to the fortune made by oil magnate J. Paul Getty, once one of the richest men in the world.

The Getty acquisition is the latest in a flurry of deals by Carlyle. Last week, the firm bought a controlling interest in TCW Group from Societe Generale. Carlyle and TCW management and employees are thought to have paid about $700 million in cash, and some debt, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Last month, the private equity firm bought Hamilton Sundstrand’s industrial pumps business from parent United Technologies for $3.46 billion. Two days before that, Carlyle partnered with Genesee & Wyoming in a $1.4 billion acquisition of RailAmerica.

On July 2, Carlyle bought Sunoco’s more-than 100-year-old refinery in Philadelphia, which preserved nearly 1,000 jobs.

Carlyle shares were down slightly in early trading Wednesday. The stock is up more than 10 percent since its debut on Nasdaq in May.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade. He has also covered local news, including the Maryland General Assembly and investigative work in Fairfax county. He has served as a correspondent for Newsweek and The Post, participating in coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber and the O.J. Simpson trial. Heath was born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., where he attended Catholic schools. He is a graduate of Fordham University and was a 2001-2002 fellow at Columbia University’s Knight/Bagehot business fellowship program.
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