Friday, 5 February 2021

Changes at the top at Ancestry

At the beginning of December 2020 it was announced that Margo Georgiadis, Ancestry's President and CEO, was planning to step down at the end of the year. Georgiadis joined the company in 2018 and presided over the launch of the short-lived AncestryHealth test in the US which was subsequently discontinued in January 2021. During her tenure the subscriber base expanded to 3.6 million and the AncestryDNA database grew to nearly 20 million people. 

At the end of January, Ancestry announced that Mark Thompson, the former Director General of the BBC, had been appointed as Chairman of the Board at Ancestry.  Here is the text of the press release from Ancestry:
LEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO -- Jan. 29, 2021-- Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, today announced the appointment of Mark Thompson as chairman of the board.

Thompson formerly served as President & CEO at The New York Times Company, where he led the 170-year-old brand’s transformation into the world's fastest-growing and most successful news digital subscription business. During his tenure, digital subscriptions grew nine-fold to over five million and the company's market cap increased nearly five times.

Thompson’s appointment at The New York Times Company followed an eight-year term as Director General (CEO and Editor-in-Chief) of the BBC. He is widely credited with expanding the BBC’s digital and global reach and overseeing development of the BBC iPlayer. He joined the BBC from Channel 4, where he was Chief Executive from 2002 to 2004.

“I'm honored to be named as Chairman of the Board for Ancestry and excited to support the next chapter in the company's success,” said Thompson. “Ancestry is already the world leader in its category but I believe it has the potential to grow much further. I’m looking forward to working with the board and management team to build the business through innovation, product enhancements and investment in records, technology and data science so that many more people around the world can embark on their own journeys of personal and family discovery."

David Kestnbaum, a Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, and Sachin Bavishi, a Managing Director at Blackstone, said “Mark’s long history of leadership, coupled with his successful track record in leading subscription and content businesses makes him an ideal Chairman. He brings a great deal of skill and strategic expertise to Ancestry. The company and the board look forward to working closely with him to accelerate Ancestry’s next phase of growth.”

Thompson was educated at Stonyhurst College and Merton College, Oxford.

This week, a few day's after the announcement of Thompson's appointment, Ancestry's Board of Directors announced that they had appointed Deborah Liu as their new Chief Executive Officer. Here is the text of the press release from Ancestry:

LEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO -- February 2, 2021-- Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, today announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Deborah (Deb) Liu as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the company’s Board of Directors, effective March 1.

Liu joins Ancestry from Facebook where she most recently created and led Facebook's Marketplace product group. Prior to Facebook, Liu held leadership roles at eBay and PayPal. Liu is actively involved in promoting diversity and women in technology and co-created the Women in Product​ nonprofit. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Intuit Inc.

“It’s an honor to join Ancestry. I’m excited to help craft the company’s next chapter, accelerating growth in Family History subscriptions and AncestryDNA by bringing the product to more people around the world,” said Liu. “I have tremendous admiration for Ancestry’s rich history and powerful mission to empower journeys of personal discovery to enrich lives. Finding and sharing our family history and understanding the challenges and triumphs our ancestors faced helps u​s feel a greater sense of connection and belonging and ultimately realize our shared humanity.”

“Ancestry already leads the field in its category but still has the potential to attract many new customers and grow its business still further,” said Mark Thompson, chairman of Ancestry’s Board of Directors. “In the course of an extensive search, it became clear to all of us that Deb was the perfect next CEO of Ancestry. She has a proven track record of product innovation and deep experience in building global consumer technology platforms. She is an outstanding leader able to inspire and motivate teams to achieve their goals.”

David Kestnbaum, a Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, and Sachin Bavishi, a Managing Director at Blackstone, said: “Deb is a terrific leader with a very strong track record of driving innovation and growth, as well as building world-class product and technology platforms. We are excited about Ancestry’s future and look forward to partnering with Deb as she leads the company into its next phase of growth.”
What does this mean?
These moves would appear to signal a welcome change of direction for Ancestry and a return to their core genealogy market with the aim of increasing family history subscriptions around the world and expanding sales of the AncestryDNA test in the international market. Of all the DNA testing companies, Ancestry has the smallest presence in the global market and their test is only sold in just over 30 countries so there is plenty of room for growth.

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