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Getty Images to deal away Art.com

The imagery company signs a letter of intent to sell Art.com, saying that it will sell the company for less than the $115.7 million in stock it paid for it in 1999.

    Getty Images signed a letter of intent to sell Art.com, its e-tail art store.

    Representatives for the Seattle-based company, which maintains an archive of 70 million images, declined to say Wednesday who has agreed to buy Art.com, but said the transaction should close within five weeks. Company representatives also declined to give the purchase price, saying only that Getty will sell the company for less than the $115.7 million in stock it paid for Art.com in 1999.

    Getty acquired Art.com during the e-commerce boom, but because of the bust decided to move out of the consumer market and focus on its business-to-business operations, company spokeswoman Kira Bacon said.

    "Art.com, although very successful as far as e-tailers go, did not meet our very rigorous standards for financial performance," Bacon said. "We decided after the fourth quarter to one way or another dispose of the assets of the business. We are in the process of doing that."

    After issuing an earnings warning earlier in the month, Getty posted first-quarter results below its previous outlook and Wall Street's initial expectations. The company blamed delays and cancellations in advertising budgets for the shortfall. Advertisers are among the biggest customers of its image archive.

    Engaged in a high-profile battle with digital imaging company Corbis, which is owned by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Getty went on a spending spree in the last couple of years. In addition to its acquisition of Art.com, Getty bought Visual Communications Group from the United Kingdom's United News & Media for $227 million last year and Image Bank from Eastman Kodak for $193 million in 1999.