Who owns Legacy.com?

I get asked this question often. The answer is simple in a legal sense, but I’d first like to answer a question I believe is more important: What does it mean to be the owner of a company like Legacy.com?

For years I owned a small parcel of land deep in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My name was on the title; I was responsible for the taxes; I was free to roam the land any time I wanted. But my role was small compared to others. These “others” included the entire ecosystem of wildlife, trees, streams and soil, without which the land would be barren. In a sense they “owned” the land more than I did. They gave the land its life; I was merely its legal steward, in charge of pruning excessive growth and fighting off would-be vandals. It was the magic of forest life that preserved and expanded its vitality.    

Legacy.com is like that forest, but its ecosystem is anchored by newspaper companies and includes thousands of funeral homes, charities, florists, and of course all those who visit the sites in its network. Its owners have cared for it, invested in it and defended it against destructive forces. But most importantly, they have understood the power of this ecosystem and have ensured that all within it thrive. It is this philosophy, shared by ownership and management alike, that has driven the company’s success. A newspaper affiliate of ours once said: “Legacy.com represents hundreds of newspapers that share a common goal. Without its newspaper partners, Legacy.com is irrelevant. And without Legacy.com, newspapers’ obituary sections might be too.” (…And, I would add, many charities, florists and funeral homes, as well as you and I, would be less served as well.)

So, in a sense we all “own” Legacy.com and give it vitality.

But who legally owns Legacy.com? For the past decade it has been a combination of private “angel” investors, a major media company (Tribune Company), and management. Recently we decided that the company would benefit if management had a new ownership partner. A few months ago that became a reality, as we welcomed Great Hill Partners as our new legal guardian. We chose them for three reasons: 1) They share our commitment to Legacy.com’s business model and its “ecosystem” of affiliates, 2) They advocate investing in the business and have the means to do so, and 3) They offer a broad range of digital experience which we can leverage.  Today Legacy.com is quite good at what it does, but it aspires to be great. We chose a partner that agrees and understands, like those before them, that being an owner of Legacy.com means being a steward of something much bigger than oneself.

About Stopher Bartol

I was the first employee of Legacy.com in 1998. Among other things, this means that during the early years I attempted, through necessity, to do just about every job at the company – with some outcomes better than others! Fortunately we soon built an experienced team like no other company of our kind. And now as CEO, I spend most of my time helping shape our strategic direction. I was raised in Sun Prairie, WI, and attended Beloit College in Wisconsin before receiving my MBA from the University of Chicago. After 9 valuable years in consulting with McKinsey & Company, I decided it was time for a change. My goal was to put my management experience to work on something innovative, entrepreneurial, and good. Why online obituaries? I address that in my first blog post, which I hope you’ll read. I feel lucky to be a part of Legacy.com. When I’m not working I enjoy listening to and playing music – my favorite artists include Rush, The Beatles, and Neil Finn/Crowded House. I love every kind of food in existence, ping-pong, a good game of H-O-R-S-E, and Scrabble – best played with my wife and our three kids at home in Evanston. I can be reached via email at stopher@legacy.com.
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