Getty Images Selling To PE Firm Hellman & Friedman For $2.4 Billion; 39 Percent Premium

imageStock photo firm Getty Images (NYSE: GYI), which was known to be shopping itself around, has agreed to sell itself to PE Firm Hellman & Friedman for $2.4 billion or $34.00 per share. The offer represents a 55 percent premium to where shares traded on January 18, the day before the company confirmed reports that it had put itself on the block. And it’s a 39 percent premium to Getty’s Friday close. The initial estimated price tag, however, was only $1.5 – $1.6 billion, and even around that level, there wasn’t much interest, according to reports. So how the company managed to wrangle an offer so far above market value is a bit unclear, though perhaps the auction process wasn’t as uncompetitive as reports suggested. Pending customary conditions, the deal is expected to close in Q2.

Hellman is the firm that took DoubleClick private and then sold it to Google (NSDQ: GOOG). It is also now invested in Nielsen, taking it private along with a consortium of PE players.

Getty, based in Seattle, was founded in 1995, has grown through a series of acquisitions…it says it has 4 million monthly unique visitors to its website. It has also made four digital media related acquisitions in the last year, including Pump Audio (expansion into stock music), Scoopt, Punchstock, and WireImage. It also held talks with Jupitermedia (NSDQ: JUPM) last year for a takeover, but the talks fell through. Getty and its main rivals Jupitermedia and Corbis have all been hit hard with the rise of low-cost online rivals, called microstock photography. Last August, Getty laid off about 100 employees, or about 5 percent of its full-time staff, its second round of cuts in as many years.