, the world’s leading genealogy website, said its board of directors had agreed to sell the company to a consortium led by European private equity group Permira for $1.6bn.

Permira would pay $32 a share in cash, the two groups said in a joint statement. That is a 41 per cent premium to’s closing price on June 5, the last trading day before reports surfaced that it had hired a financial adviser for a possible sale.

Under the terms of the agreement, Tim Sullivan,’s chief executive, and Howard Hochhauser, its chief financial officer, will retain the majority of their stakes.

Spectrum Equity, a venture capital group that holds a 30 per cent stake in, will also remain an investor.

“This is a successful outcome for our public stockholders,” said Mr Sullivan. “We’re excited that Permira shares our commitment to keep investing in our technology and product experience to make family history easy and accessible for more and more families around the world.” is the world’s largest online family history resource, with 2m subscribers who pay from $12.95 a month.

The company, which originated in the 1980s as a genealogical magazine and has since compiled a database of 10bn records, allows subscribers to research their family trees and even submit their DNA for genetic analysis. said it expected the transaction to close in early 2013, subject to the approval of shareholders.

The company will maintain the same operating structure and keep its headquarters in Provo, Utah.

By midday in New York,’s Nasdaq-listed shares had jumped 8 per cent to $31.45, within a whisker of the acquisition price.’s board of directors was advised by Qatalyst Partners, and Permira was advised by Morgan Stanley.

Permira has arranged financing for the deal from Barclays, Credit Suisse Securities, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets., which is due to report its third-quarter results on Wednesday, posted 2011 revenues of $400m and net income of $63m, up from $37m in 2010 and $21m in 2009.

In a separate announcement on Monday, SVG Capital, the listed private equity group, said it had signed an agreement to sell its direct holding in Permira Europe III for £90m, a 13 per cent discount to Permira’s September 2012 valuation of the fund.

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