481 CORBIS REORGANIZES AT THE TOP
June 5, 2002
Corbis has moved to realign its top leadership by dissolving the co-president structure and
replacing it with a more traditional structure. The two co-presidents -- Steve Davis and Tony
Rojas -- have new titles and new responsibilities.
Davis will be the Chief Executive Officer with responsibilities for future planning and
strategic development. He will focus on the long-term strategic direction of the company, the
strengthening of the Corbis brand, and he will continue to build stronger relationships with
key contributors, clients, the press and industry leaders. Rojas will be Chief Operating
Officer with responsibility for day-to-day operation of the company.
Leslie Hughes' role as president, Corbis Markets & Products Group, is being eliminated as of
June 30th. The people who have reported to her will now report directly to Tony Rojas. Leslie
has been instrumental in building the foundation of Corbis as it is today. In a letter to
photographers Davis said, "It is the mark of a great leader that Leslie has left us with such
strong photography teams in place. We are extremely grateful for Leslie's contributions to
Corbis and we have much to celebrate and honor about her work, including her unselfish
participation in this restructuring process and the final decisions."
Corbis says that this top level streamlining of the reporting structure will enhance
efficiency for the customers. However, there seems to be few, if any, significant changes in
personnel at the middle and lower levels. It is these lower level people who are in daily
contact with the customers.
On the creative side of the business the photography groups -- under the leadership of Rick
Boeth, Patrick Donehue and Bill Hannigan -- remain intact and unchanged. Boeth is Global
Director of News, Donehue is Vice President in charge of the Commercial side of the business
(including both RP and RF images) and Hannigan is responsible for the Non-News Editorial
collections and the Permanent Collections which include Corbis Bettman and others.
In recent months, as Corbis completed the integration of the various businesses they acquired,
there has been a steady reduction of staff as they have eliminated redundant positions that
were no longer needed after the integration. Currently they have a staff of about 1,000, down
from approximately 1,400 a year to 18 months ago. Corbis indicates that they are happy with
this current staffing level and no additional significant cuts are expected.
(For purposes of comparison Getty Images has a staff that is less than double that of Corbis
while Getty's revenue is believed to be nearly four times that of Corbis. In light of this
fact further staff cuts at Corbis would not be surprising as they seek to make the company
Davis says, "We are moving beyond acquisitions and integration to focus on growth,
profitability and new markets. The co-presidency helped us through a decade-long evolution,
but a more traditional model now will provide laser focus in a rapidly changing market. This
realignment clarifies roles and responsibilities and ensures the right teams are working even
more closely together."
Rojas will lead day-to-day operations and build the core business. "My focus will be
empowering the Corbis team. We are now better positioned to take more share in this
multi-billion dollar industry," said Rojas.
One of the challenges Davis and Rojas face is finding a way to instill confidence among the
image suppliers, particularly among former Stock Market photographers. While this
reorganization has more clearly defined the lines of responsibility and reporting, it is hard
to see how it will have any effect on this major confidence issue.
Corbis acquired The Stock Market because they felt they needed to be able to offer their
commercial customers more of the high production value, very creative images that TSM was
But, since the takeover, sales of this particular type or work has been falling precipitously.
Corbis says it is because the photographers have not been supplying enough new material. The
photographers say they have been sending in new images until very recently, but very few are
accepted. Corbis, like most other agencies, says that editing must be tighter, but the
photographer say that this tight editing is keeping images that buyers would purchase from
being seen. When customers can't find what they want at Corbis they go to other sites to
purchase the images they will eventually use.
What really bothers the photographers is the way the sales and marketing side of the business
has been handled. There is no evidence from this reorganization that this will change. The
TSM sales personnel were reorganized so they were no longer handling their old client. This has
left the clients confused as to who to contact to get images. Very few of the TSM images have
been made available on the Corbis site and the Corbis sales staff has not been instructed to
direct customers who can't find what they want on the Corbis site to the TSM site. There has
been very little marketing of the TSM site. Corbis has provided links to Sygma and Saba sites
from the Corbis site, but not to TSM's site.
When Corbis took over TSM they told the photographers they had learned from the mistakes they
made during the Sharpshooters and Westlight acquisitions and they would not make the same
mistakes again. The photographer perception is that they are continuing to make exactly the
There is no denying that the general state of the stock photo business has contributed to the
fall off in sales at Corbis. And, the fact that Corbis was in the unfortunate position of being
in the middle of a very complex integration of the two files during this economic downturn
probably made the situation worse. But it seems unlikely that most photographers will once
again aggressively produce and supply new work prior to seeing some type of upturn in their
individual sales figures.
Meanwhile, it seems likely that the photographers, who are so critical to Corbis' long term
success, will start looking around for other ways to sell their images, or other ways to make
The longer it takes Corbis to get those individual sales figures to start climbing again, the
more photographers they will lose. It was these photographers, with experience in
producing high production value imagery for the advertising market, that made TSM an
attractive acquisition in the first place.