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Bill Gates sells Corbis to Getty via Chinese Consortium

Image © the artist, courtesy Getty Images

Two of the world's biggest names, and competitors, in image licensing - Getty Images and Bill Gates' Corbis Imagery - are to merge, but will be made accessible through Getty's online channels.

Seattle-based Corbis, owned by Mircosoft-founder Gates, announced on Friday it has sold its image division to Beijing-based Chinese consortium Visual China Group (VCG) for an undisclosed amount. A wing Unity Glory will own Corbis’ images and motion archives.

In a co-ordinated statement, the New York-based Getty announced it had struck an exclusive deal with VCG to license all of Corbis’ images anywhere in the world except China.

Corbis was privately owned by Gates, who founded under the name Interactive Home Systems. First established in 1989, the company was born out of Gates’ belief consumers would decorate their homes with a revolving display of images mounted on digital displays.

At the onset of the internet, and in some respects as a precursor to ‘the internet of things,’ Gates envisioned Corbis would deliver great art works, from across history, at a high digital level into consumers’ living rooms.

That vision has not borne out, and Bloomberg News reported Corbis had been forced to cut about 15 percent of its staff in November 2015.

Corbis will continue to exist under its Corbis Entertainment division, which works on product placement and advertising.

The deal is something of a coup for Getty, who now offer Corbis imagery, video, and historic archival content alongside their existing collections of almost 200 million images and videos. Getty currently has approximately 330 image partner relationships, including NBC Universal, BBC Worldwide and AFP.

Under the terms of their agreement, Unity Glory will own and manage the Corbis Images, Corbis Motion, and Veer licensing brands and all their associated content. The sale does not include the Branded Entertainment Network, Splash, or Greenlight, its rights clearance and representation business.

Over the coming months, Corbis Images and Corbis Motion content will be migrated to gettyimages.com.

Getty Images is proud to be associated with AFP and its rich history of journalistic excellence and to continue our longstanding and successful partnership,” said Lee Martin, Senior Vice President Sales, Getty Images.

“Our respective businesses complement each other in bringing an unrivalled breadth, depth, reach and quality of coverage around world News, Sports and Entertainment imagery and video to customers around the globe.”

Amy Jun Liang, Chief Executive Officer of VCG, said: “We are proud to work with our partner Getty Images to assemble such impressive visual assets and work together to better serve our customers around the world. This maximizes the commercial value of the assets, strengthens our market position in the industry, and marks a significant milestone in the expansion of our business portfolio to the world.

“As one of the largest companies in the image industry, we foresee a growing interest in China and around the world for premium visual content and we look forward to collaborating with Getty Images to fulfil this demand.”