Corbis begins 2005 with the announcement that they have acquired Zefa Visual Media Group. This is right on track with the November rumors that they hoped to complete the deal by the end of 2004. According to the press release the combined revenues of the two companies is in excess of $200 million. That should break down to around $43 million for Zefa and $160 million for Corbis in 2004. Corbis plans to announce 2004 sales at an annual meeting January 19th in New York City.
"This deal further solidifies our plan to accelerate penetration of key commercial markets," said Steve Davis, President and CEO of Corbis. "Moreover, as a result, we expect to dramatically improve our market share, not only in Germany, France, and the UK, but around the globe."
Zefa has more than 140 employees, eight offices throughout Europe and the company currently represents more than 450,000 images. (Corbis employed 900 people before the acquisition of Zefa.) The number of images is somewhat deceptive because a significant percentage of them have been supplied by third party agencies and it is unclear what will happen to those relationships as existing contracts expire and Corbis integrates the Zefa material into its own database.
Zefa is known for cutting-edge, fresh, hip commercial photography, particularly with a European flavor and that is one of the key areas where demand has been has been growing and where Corbis' offering could use a boost.
The addition of Zefa is expected to strengthen Corbis' commercial business and its business in Europe. According to Corbis spokesman Dov Schiff, Europe represents one of the fastest-growing markets for Corbis, with 39 percent growth for the first half of 2004 compared with 19.3 percent in the U.S. Currently, about 40 percent of the company's sales occur overseas and that should jump to well over 50% with the addition of Zefa.
"Zefa's fresh, fashion-forward photography is a perfect complement to Corbis' imagery and services," said Jennifer Hurshell, Corbis Senior Vice-President, Image Licensing. "Our clients demand tremendous stylistic breadth of imagery, and this takes us another step forward to building one of greatest creative resources in the world."
Current plans call for Corbis to complete the integration of the Dusseldorf, Germany-based company into its website, global sales organization, and marketing programs by the end of 2005. Corbis also plans to consolidate its offices in London, Paris, New York and Dusseldorf into a single location in each city. It is not clear what will happen to the Zefa website, but it is believed it will be closed down once the integration is complete.
Tomas Speight, CEO of Zefa said, "This will enormously benefit our photographers, who will gain global reach from Corbis' global sales network and industry-leading services." Speight has been named vice president of international operations of Corbis. Erwin Fey, president of Zefa, will become a consultant for Corbis.
Some Zefa photographers are concerned that the editing strategies may change resulting in fewer of their images being accepted for marketing. Only time will tell if there are any basis for these fears, but not all Zefa photographers share Speight's optimism that this acquisition will "enormously benefit our photographers."