Mormons proves money grows on family trees

 

For the newest members of the dot-com millionaires club, money grows on family trees. A Mormon company have cashed in after their genealogy service agreed to a £1bn buyout lead by UK investors excited by a global roots-finding trend boosted by, among other celebrities, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Thus Hollywood has helped inspire London suits to spend a billion on a company founded in a car somewhere in Utah by Mormons.

But who are they? Paul Allen, right, (not the Microsoft guy) and Dan Taggart were graduates of the Mormon Brigham Young University in Utah, who, in 1990, founded Infobases, church publications on floppy discs. By 1997, its parent company bought Ancestry magazine, a genealogy newsletter. It went online and exploded in popularity.

Ancestry.co.uk opened in 2002, offering access to archives, census records and tree-building software. Interest boomed further from 2004 with the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are?, in which JK Rowling and Jeremy Paxman traced their roots.

The company now has more than two million subscribers worldwide paying up to £19 a month in the UK. The US version of the BBC show, which ran for three series on NBC and included Paltrow, helped boost subscribers by 40 per cent.

Allen is still involved while Taggart remains on the board. They stand to make millions after the buyout on Monday by UK private equity firm, Permira, as will chief executive, Tim Sullivan, and finance boss, Howard Hochhauser.

Ancestry.com now has 850 employees with global revenues of £300m. The site's own corporate history makes no mention of its roots in Mormonism, for which family history is a central part of faith. FamilySearch, the Mormon church's own site, claims to be the largest of its kind.

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