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Consumer Confidential: Why spend billions for Ancestry's DNA data if you don't plan to use it?

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Shirley Ruge has long been fascinated with exploring her family tree. At one time, that meant many hours spent combing through records at courthouses and libraries.

For the last 20 years or so, the Indian Wells resident has focused her research on Ancestry (a.k.a. Ancestry.com), one of the leading sites for genealogical sleuthing and DNA analysis. The company says it has 18 million people in “the world’s largest consumer DNA network.”

“You find heroes in your past and you also find villains,” Ruge, 87, told me. “It’s fascinating.

“I’m one of six kids,” she said. “I want to know where we come from, and why we’re all so different.”

Lately, though, Ruge has had other questions on her mind.

Such as: Why was Utah-based Ancestry purchased in December by the New York investment firm Blackstone Group for $4.7 billion?

 

And: What does Blackstone plan to do with that treasure trove of genetic data, which is highly sought after by drug companies, insurance firms, employers and others?

“I don’t believe for a second that Blackstone bought Ancestry simply because they love people,” Ruge said. “You don’t spend $4.7 billion unless you have a plan to make it back, and more.”

Blackstone says she and others needn’t worry.

“We invested in Ancestry because it is a clear leader in its industry with a digital subscription business that has continued to grow significantly,” said Matt Anderson, a spokesman for the investment firm with more than $600 billion in assets under management.

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