Mar 14

Getty Images CEO Jonathan Klein Announces He Is Stepping Down

Getty Images Chairman and CEO Jonathan Klein just announced that he will be stepping down as CEO as soon as a successor is found. This announcement comes after a February 23 earnings report to investors which stated that in the last three months of 2014 the company burned through one-third of its cash reserves which fell from $41 million to $27 million. It appears that Klein will stay on as chairman and continue to guide Getty’s policy.

In my opinion this is just one more nail in the coffin of a huge company who has failed to see the paradigm shift in the stock photo industry. For a long time Getty’s policy seemed to be buying up and absorbing competitors along with their photo collections. A few of the larger and more well-known collections Getty has acquired dating as far back as the mid-90s has been Tony Stone Images, All Sport, the Hulton Press Library, Archive Photos of New York, iStockphoto, Jupiterimages and many more. While Getty has the largest stock photo library in the world it asks premium prices for their images. Smaller companies continued popping up offering high-quality images at very modest and reasonable rates and Getty can not absorb them all.

During this time Getty also started their controversial settlement demand letter program. Under this program Getty would find images being used on websites, blogs and other places on the internet, then send a settlement demand letter requesting hundreds or thousands of dollars for the use of the image(s). These letters typically gave recipients 14 days to pay along with an implied threat of legal action for higher amounts if not paid by the deadline. Getty continued with this image tarnishing program even though they were compared to other companies such as Righthaven and Prenda law. Getty also saw a huge increase in the number of complaints filed against them with the Washington State Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau and other agencies. In October 2014 Getty announced that they would start easing up with their settlement demand program. They reduced the amounts they were asking for and appear to have reduced the amount of letters they are sending out.

In October 2012 Getty Images saddled itself with $2.6 billion in debt when it was acquired for $3.3 billion by the Carlyle Group. Since then the company has suffered from all sorts of financial woes ranging from declining earnings to major court losses where Getty was found to be the infringer. I don’t know if it’s too late for Getty Images but it is obvious that major changes are needed if they are to survive as a leader in stock image photography.

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