Out of the Blue: Corbis Acquires Veer

Posted on 11/6/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Our recent coverage of Veer was unexpectedly timely, given today's announcement of Corbis acquiring the Canada-based stock-image retailer and type foundry for an undisclosed sum. Though this purchase is unlikely to be in the vicinity of the failed Getty/Jupitermedia deal valued at about $350 million, the alliance of Veer and Corbis may still have a rather significant effect on the industry.

According to Corbis' industry research, Veer is the fourth-largest player in the stock-image space. A union of second and fourth may well spell very bad news for the already ailing top dog, Getty Images.

In fact, today's announcement is more in line with Getty's recent aggressive acquisitions-based expansion strategy than that of Corbis. Still, the Bill Gates-owned company has assimilated a number of well-known image brands-think Bettmann, Ansel Adams and Sygma-during the 1990s. Though Corbis made several strategic acquisitions in 2005, the only domestic brand brought on board since then was the California-based interior-image collection and production house Beateworks. In late 2006, Corbis made what is presumed its largest recent investment by purchasing the 30-year-old, Sydney-based Australian Picture Library.

Enter Veer, the preferred brand of most North American graphic designers and many an advertising art director. Veer has a history of business and technological innovation, supported by a unique product mix that highlights the company's understanding of the high-end creative buyer. Its image collection exceeds 600,000, much of which is wholly owned, as are the typefaces in its font foundry. It's not surprising that Corbis cites Veer's market penetration as one of the reasons for this acquisition.

The acquisition is also emblematic of CEO Gary Shenk's management style. Earlier in the year, the incoming CEO swiftly readjusted Corbis' priorities to focus on what he saw as its core strengths. Today, he describes the company's strategy as "bullish," adding that the acquisition of Veer is a bold step to capture momentum and seize opportunity during a period of market instability.

Shenk hopes to amass the fastest-growing leading brands, ranging from high-end commercial imagery to editorial, microstock and rights services. In the works for only a couple of months, the acquisition of Veer is one of the steps Corbis is taking to create a network of such brands. Previously centralized, Corbis is now looking to manage a portfolio of four: Corbis imagery and footage; Veer imagery, footage and fonts; Corbis rights services; and the micro-payment brand SnapVillage. The company sees this as a strategy with cross-selling potential, particularly for Corbis rights services and Veer's typography collection.

There are no changes planned for the 170 Veer employees, as Corbis plans to operate the company semi-autonomously. Veer CEO Brad Zumwalt and COO Nairn Nerland are joining the Corbis executive team but will continue to run what is now being referred to as "the Veer network." The two companies say the majority of Veer's leadership have made a commitment to stay on for the long term.

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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