J Carlo Cannell, the activist investor who has been circling Rightside for the last year or so, was unimpressed with the company’s recent sale of eNom to Tucows.
In a letter published as a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week, Cannell announced that he has started up a support group for fellow “concerned” investors.
In the distinctly loveless Valentine’s Day missive, Cannell called for Rightside to be acquired, go private or issue a big dividend to investors, and said he intends to campaign to have the board of directors replaced.
On the eNom sale, Cannell wrote that the $76.7 million deal “marks a step in the right direction” for the company, but that he was “not satisfied” with the price or the $4 million legal fees accrued. He wrote:
Conversations with management suggest that the Company took only two months to evaluate and close the transaction. Perhaps if they had been more patient and diligent, shareholders would have enjoyed more than the 0.5x 2016 revenues which they received in this “shotgun sale”.
This price was a fraction of Tucows’ own valuation of 2.6x 2016 estimated revenue. For the two trading sessions following the eNom transaction, NAME traded up 10% while TCX was up 32%, suggesting that investors believe it was a better deal for TCX shareholders than NAME shareholders.
The deal was described at the time by Tucows’ CEO Elliot Noss as an “individual opportunistic transaction”.
Noss later told analysts that the eNom business was floundering, “a flat, potentially even slightly negative-growth business”.
Cannell said last week he has formed Save NAME Group, named after Rightside’s ticker symbol, as a means to exert pressure on the board.
He said it is currently “difficult to justify” the company remaining publicly listed, and that the “sale of the entire company” or a “special and substantial dividend” could help appease shareholders.
He said Rightside agreed last August to let him name a new director, but has dragged its feet approving his suggestion, adding:
SNG intends to become more active and vocal in its efforts to force change at NAME. SNG has compiled a slate of qualified candidates. The names and identity of these candidates shall be disclosed periodically together with other neutral and reliable facts to support the contention of SNG that some or all of the board of NAME needs to be replaced.
Cannell, who owns about 9% of Rightside, first emerged as a critic of the company a year ago.
At that time, he called for the company to ditch its “garbage” new gTLD registries in favor of a focus on its higher-margin eNom business.
He was supported by Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling, then also a Rightside investor in addition to a competitor.