Blackstone scoops up Ancestry

Deal size: $4.7 billion

Announced: Aug. 5

Closed: TBD

Why it matters: Private equity firm Blackstone announced in August it was acquiring a majority stake in direct-to-consumer genetics company Ancestry from its former equity holders for $4.7 billion.

According to Blackstone, Ancestry has $1 billion in annual revenue and over 3 million paying customers from more than 30 countries. The company got its start in genealogy and has expanded into DNA testing and, more recently, advanced genetic health screening, in a bid to compete with 23andMe.

The deal with Blackstone could help Ancestry as it looks to strengthen its position in the health space and expand into international markets.

“Looking ahead, in collaboration with Blackstone, we will continue to leverage our unique content, powerhouse consumer brand and technology platform to expand our global Family History business while bringing to life our long-term vision of personalized preventive health,” said Margo Georgiadis, president and chief executive officer of Ancestry, in a statement.

The transaction represents the first control acquisition for Blackstone’s eighth vintage of its flagship private equity vehicle.

According to Blackstone, the company will not have access to Ancestry user DNA or family tree data, including Ancestry'scollection of 24 billion records and data on 18 million people in its growing AncestryDNA network.

Alan Butler, interim executive director and general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the deal raises privacy concerns as it gives a private equity firm access to health data.

“The big concern when there is a big deal like this is that investors might be interested in that data for other reasons, and not in the ways that consumers intended when they gave over that information," he said in an interview with CBS News.

U.S. rules around how personal health data can be used are outdated, mostly relating to traditional health providers like hospitals but not a commercial service like Ancestry, he said.