Ancestry via YouTube

Ancestry IPO rumors fly while controversy over company’s ad spreads

By Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com | Posted - Apr 19th, 2019 @ 6:20pm



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LEHI — Lehi-based genealogy giant Ancestry.com has been the subject of both controversy and initial public offering rumors the last few days.

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Ancestry was preparing to go public, “according to people familiar with the matter” — but the company has not yet filed any paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The IPO could occur in the second half of the year, Bloomberg’s anonymous sources said, though they asked not to be identified because “the matter is private.”

This isn’t the first time Ancestry has been rumored to go public or has actually gone public. The company first hit the stock market in 2009 under trading ticker ACOM after raising $100 million. It went back into the private sector in 2012 after it was bought for $1.6 billion by private equity firm Permira Advisers. There were rumors of another IPO in 2017, but the company never pulled the trigger.

If the company does go public, 2019 might end up being another banner year for Utah IPOs. Tech companies Pluralsight and Domo went public in 2018, and Health Catalyst recently started the process to jump into the stock market after a $100 million funding round.

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Ancestry was last valued at $2.6 billion in 2016 and recently won a $2.4 million tax incentive package from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development that was meant to encourage the company to stay and grow in Utah.

An Ancestry spokesperson declined to “comment on rumors” related to the IPO, however.

But the company has been part of more than just IPO gossip lately.

An ad for Ancestry recently generated a lot of controversy and has since been removed from YouTube and is in the process of being pulled from TV, the company confirmed.

The ad depicted a white man, in what appeared to be 1800-era North America, asking a black woman to run away with him to Canada where they could be together. The ad then told viewers, “without you, the story stops here.”

While Ancestry, which specializes in family history research and DNA testing, said it was intending to represent important stories from history, many viewers felt the ad whitewashed the history behind most black Americans’ mixed heritage. That heritage is, in fact, generally the product of white slave owners raping their black slaves — not star-crossed lovers heading for Canada.

"I used this service a few years ago. And when I realized I was more than 10 percent European, I wept," tweeted Brittany Packnett. "Not from shame for who I am, but from anger from the trauma of how it may have come to be. This commercial spits on the trauma in our veins and the fight of our ancestors."

Ancestry responded, in part, to KSL.com's request for comment saying, “We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused."

Liesl Nielsen

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