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Go Daddy sale to make Bob Parsons a billionaire

Number one domain name registrar Go Daddy is in talks to sell out to private investors in a deal worth north of $2 billion, according to reports.

The deal, first reported by the New York Post and subsequently confirmed by other newspapers, would see the company acquired by a group led by Silver Lake Partners and KKR & Co for between $1 billion and $2.5 billion.

An official announcement could come as soon as Tuesday, these reports said.

Go Daddy has been subject of exit strategy rumors before, notably late last year, and it came to nothing, but this time it’s looking like a done deal.

The company also attempted to go public in 2006, but its IPO was yanked due to poor market conditions and other reasons.

In fact, IPOs appear to be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to domain name registrars.

Register.com did go public, but it didn’t work out too well and it was reprivatized. Network Solutions also wound up in private hands. Demand Media listed last year, but eNom is not its core business.

For many, Go Daddy is synonymous with its flamboyant chief executive, Bob Parsons, who founded the company in 1997 with the proceeds of a previous technology company sale.

As the company’s primary shareholder, the sale will likely make him a billionaire. The question is: as a serial entrepreneur, how long will Parsons stick around?

He’s a pretty good businessman, to be sure, but he’s never struck me as somebody who’s particularly passionate about the domain name industry.

I expect he’ll stick around for a while to groom his successor after the sale closes – it may even be a condition of the deal – but I’d be surprised if he’s still at the helm two years from now.

I understand there are also a number of senior Go Daddy executives with share options; we’re likely to see these guys on the receiving end of windfalls if the deal goes through.

I’ll also be interested to see how new ownership will affect Go Daddy’s philanthropic work.

The company does not like to talk about it (more than three or four times a month) but it does contribute a fair bit to charitable projects.

I don’t think new management will attempt any kind of drastic shake-up of Go Daddy’s business model, such as raising prices, in the short term.

The company has a winning formula that is not in need of fixing right now.

Go Daddy lobbies to delay its IPO

Go Daddy is reportedly behind proposed US legislation that would make it easier for large privately-held companies to keep their financial records secret.

(UPDATE: This post sources a New York Post report, but according to a Go Daddy spokesperson, the company had “nothing to do with” the proposed legislation.)

If the new Private Company Flexibility and Growth Act becomes law, it would enable Go Daddy to avoid being compelled into an IPO.

The bill was introduced by Arizona’s Rep. David Schweikert and other bi-partisan Congressmen yesterday. In interviews, Schweikert talked of having the law pass by the end of the year.

Today, when private companies hit 500 shareholders they have to start publicly disclosing their accounts, by filing their financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This creates substantial costs, and in the past many companies (Google is an example) choose to go the IPO route instead, even if they don’t necessarily want to.

The new bill would allow them to stay private, in both senses of the word, for longer.

Schweikert told Fortune that the bill was inspired by “a bunch of little companies” in his Scottsdale constituency. The New York Post reported that Go Daddy was among them.

Go Daddy filed for an IPO in May 2006, but canceled the offering a few months later, citing poor market conditions and conflicts with CEO Bob Parsons’ management style.

In September last year, the company put itself up for sale, with a reported asking price of between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, but the auction was called off a few weeks later.

Go Daddy to sell .xxx domains

Go Daddy has become the latest registrar to agree to sell .xxx domain names.

It’s a bit of a big deal for ICM Registry, given how dominant Go Daddy is in the registrar channel.

There are about 50 .xxx registrars on this ICANN web page, which lists all the accredited registrars along with which top-level domains they’re approved to sell.

Go Daddy isn’t listed as a .xxx registrar yet, but its accreditation was just announced in a press release.

Read more at The Register.

Elephant hunt clip is Video.me’s biggest hit

Go Daddy’s Video.me turned a year old this week and it looks like its biggest success story to date is the video of CEO Bob Parsons shooting an elephant while on vacation in Zimbabwe.

The “Hunting Problem Elephant” clip has been viewed 768,541 times since it was uploaded at the end of March, making it the site’s most-viewed by a considerable margin.

The second most-popular video, with 49,293 views, was uploaded by racing driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, one of Go Daddy’s spokesmodels.

Only five clips have received more than 10,000 views, judging from the front page of the site.

Alexa Video.meHere’s a screen-grab of Alexa’s user reach graph for Video.me.

The spike corresponds to the elephant incident, which was widely reported online and on TV in the US, but traffic seems to have returned to pre-shooting levels rather quickly afterward.

One of Video.me’s selling points when it launched was the ability to privately share videos, so I guess it’s possible that there’s a thriving community hidden in the site somewhere.

ICANN tries to limit rogue registrars

As part of its growing efforts to clean up the domain name registrar market, ICANN has introduced background checks for companies applying for accreditation.

ICANN will check criminal and financial records, as well as doing credit checks, on companies that want to be able to sell domains in gTLDs.

As a result, the cost of applying to become a registrar is going up by $1,000, to $3,500, to cover the cost of accessing the relevant third-party databases.

The changes, made largely at the behest of law enforcement participants in ICANN, concerned that some registrars are not what you’d call responsible netizens, come into effect July 1.

The intellectual property lobby had called for the checks to include cybersquatting and UDRP judgements, but those suggestions were not taken on board.