Visual China Group buys Bill Gates' Corbis Images

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Visual China Group (VCG), China's largest image licensing company said it would take a leading position in the image industry and expand its business portfolio globally after acquiring Corbis Images, the world's second-largest photo collection established by Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates in 1989.

Unity Glory International Ltd, an affiliate of VCG, acquired the assets and brands of US-based Corbis Images for less than $100 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Unity Glory will own and manage the images and motion archives, names and trademarks associated with Corbis Images, Corbis Motion and the company's Veer licensing brands.

"Corbis is a world leading company in the image licensing business, owning a treasure house of valuable image assets around the world. Through the transaction, we could strengthen our dominant position in China's image industry and enhance our core competence in the global high-end image market," Liang Jun, chief executive officer of VCG, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

"The acquisition marks a significant milestone on VCG's journey of globalization," Liang added.

The transaction accelerates the transformation of Corbis Entertainment's Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) and entertainment advertising businesses which are retained by Corbis. Corbis Entertainment will be rebranded in the coming months and continue to provide rights representation for celebrities and iconic personalities, as well as operate its celebrity content business.

"We look forward to exploring future partnership opportunities with Corbis Entertainment in the entertainment advertising business field," said Liang.

Founded in 2000, VCG owns and manages China's largest premium digital visual content platform, and offers products including still imagery, videos, music, multimedia and other digital content to approximately 15,000 advertisers, media outlets, and businesses in China.

Furthermore, it provides integrated marketing solutions to media agencies, film-makers and producers, expanding its business field into tourism, education and other sectors of high relevance to visual communications.

Corbis Images' online photo gallery owns nearly 50 million photos and 190,000 videos, and records important historical events worldwide from the 19th to 20th century. It works with over 15,000 contributors and hundreds of image partners to provide services for users in more than 50 countries.

Under a separate but related deal with VCG, the photos will be migrated over to Getty Images, the world leader in visual content and communications, and combined with Getty's collection of 200 million images to create one of the largest online photo archives.

VCG has partnered with Getty Images for over a decade to distribute Getty Images' content exclusively in China. After a transition period, Getty Images will exclusively offer Corbis collection to its global customer base outside of China.

Liang said: "We foresee a growing interest in China and around the world for premium visual content and we look forward to collaborating with more excellent visual content companies in the future."

Wang Wenlan, a renowned photographer and vice-president of the China Photographers Association, said this acquisition shows that Chinese image and visual content providers have flourished, marking a major step forward on the international stage.

"It is good news for photographers, videographers and shutterbugs, who could access high qualified photos and visual content worldwide easier than before. These precious and rare images are a feast for their eyes."

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