The Seattle-based photo-archive company, which is owned by Bill Gates, said in a memo this week that an “accelerated decline” in its photo-licensing business is forcing it to restructure and eliminate jobs
Corbis, the photo-archive company owned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is preparing to cut about 15 percent of its staff amid a price war among image providers, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
An “accelerated decline” in the Seattle company’s photo-licensing business is forcing Corbis to restructure and eliminate jobs, according to a memo sent this week to employees by Chief Executive Officer Gary Shenk and obtained by Bloomberg News.
“A number of positions at Corbis will be eliminated,” Shenk wrote in the memo. He said he would relay a “new company structure later in the week.” The memo didn’t say how many people Corbis employs.
Corbis is in a battle for stock-image customers that’s also ensnared Seattle-based Getty Images. Both companies compete with rivals Shutterstock and Adobe Systems’ Fotolia, which provide low-cost images from amateur and semiprofessional photographers to a growing number of Internet-based publishers.
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Corbis “suffered a significant downturn” in performance starting in mid-2014, according to Shenk’s memo. Its financial performance has been hurt by the image business as well as a new venture in branded entertainment, Shenk wrote. Profits from the new Branded Entertainment Network “haven’t materialized fast enough to make up for the downturn” in the image division, historically the company’s largest.
The Branded Entertainment unit integrates advertisers’ products into TV shows and movies. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has worked with Corbis to include its terminals in the Aaron Sorkin TV show “The Newsroom.”
Shenk said in the memo that he’ll try to get the company to profitability by stabilizing the photo-licensing business, focusing on premium content and core customers, and by accelerating its push into branded entertainment.
“This week, we will be launching a long-term strategic plan to support these objectives, as well as taking major steps to restructure the organization in support of this strategy,” Shenk wrote.
Chief Revenue Officer Mark Owens, who has worked at Corbis for almost four years, will leave to pursue another opportunity, according to the memo.
The company said in a statement Tuesday that it hired Brian Cohee as chief technology officer and Greg Isaacs as a senior vice president. Both men’s roles will be tied closely to the branded entertainment initiatives.
Gates founded Corbis’ predecessor in 1989 with the goal of digitizing images for consumers, schools, libraries and business. Among its acquisitions was the Bettmann archive in 1995, featuring thousands of images dating back to the dawn of photography.
Corbis’ trove of iconic shots includes men landing on the Moon, Depression-era construction workers taking a lunch break on a skyscraper girder, and black children going to high school under military escort in 1950s Arkansas.
A spokesman for Gates didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.