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Shakeup at Go Daddy

Go Daddy has a new boss and new ownership following a deal reportedly worth $2.25 billion.

For the first time in its 14-year history, Bob Parsons will be neither the majority shareholder nor the CEO.

It appears that seasoned technology investment firms KKR, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures will own, between them, more than half of the domain name registrar.

Very little about the “partnership” was disclosed, including the financial terms. Various media sources valued the deal at $2.25 billion.

It was left to Domain Name Wire to uncover the news that Parsons will actually step aside as CEO to allow COO Warren Adelman to take over.

Parsons will become executive chairman.

A Go Daddy spokesperson said: “Mr. Parsons has said he will be very active in the business, especially in the areas he is most interested, such as marketing.”

She added that “very little will change”.

The spokesperson confirmed that after the deal closes Parsons will no longer be the majority shareholder. He currently owns 78% of Go Daddy, with the remaining 22% allocated to employee stock options.

As DNW reported, 36 employees will cash out for over $1 million each.

I wonder if we’ll see a mini wave of new domain name companies springing up in the Scottsdale area, as a result of newly minted Go Daddy millionaires leaving to launch their own start-ups.

Go Daddy gripe site to shut down

NoDaddy.com, a gripe site dedicated to discussing customer and employee grievances with Go Daddy, is to be shut down by its administrators.

The shutdown coincides with an ownership shakeup at the registrar, which will see Warren Adelman take over as CEO and three big new investors come on board.

NoDaddy administrator “Rohan” wrote:

What started to document the improper suspension of SecLists.Org grew to cover dozens of other GoDaddy scandals including shill bidding on their own domain auctions, improperly blocking users from transferring domains to other registrars, sexual harassment, constant objectification of women, killing elephants for promotional purposes, etc. We’re hopeful that GoDaddy’s new owners will stop these shenanigans.

While our opinions of GoDaddy haven’t changed, we (NoDaddy admins) have decided to move on to focus on our other pursuits. Accordingly, we’ll be shutting down the main site and the forums on July 8. The site had a great run, and we appreciate your participation over the last 4 years!

In recent months, the vast majority of the posts on the forum have been made by a single disgruntled former Go Daddy employee who is currently suing the company for alleged “wage theft”.

The thread about the class action rambles on to some 147 pages and over 2,100 posts, most of which were made by this individual, going by the handle EmployeeClassAction.

Unsurprisingly, this user suspects the administrators were paid off.

Blacknight warns about new gTLD “false promises”

Domain name registrar Blacknight Solutions has warned domain buyers not to be “duped” by registrars offering preregistration in new top-level domains that have not yet been approved.

“Every time an end user gets duped it hurts our industry and companies like us have to clean up the mess,” managing director Michele Neylon said.

In a press release, Blacknight said:

After receiving several queries from customers, Blacknight discovered that registrants interested in acquiring domains in rumoured new gTLDs had become confused by these offers, as they are not familiar with how the new TLD implementation might work. This sort of speculative offer is the equivalent of taking a down payment on a concept car that has not been approved for production. It is a false promise.

While the company was diplomatic enough to avoid naming names, I strongly suspect the release refers primarily to United Domains, which has been offering preregistration for the last few months.

UD currently offers such services for dozens of non-existent TLDs, such as (without leaving the B’s) .bank .bayern .bcn .berlin .bike and .board.

Given that none of the 50-odd potential gTLD applicants listed have revealed what their registration policies will be, it seems possible that many wannabe registrants will be left disappointed.

Don’t expect to be able to get a .bank domain via preregistration.

UD’s preregistering process looks a lot like a regular shopping cart, albeit with $0 pricing and no requirement to submit credit card details.

There is a FAQ that, if you read it, explains that there can be no guarantee you’ll get the names you ask for.

These services, and others like it, are basically ways to build up mailing lists of interested buyers, in order to contact them when domains actually start becoming available.

The registrar has already been burned by a couple of gTLD applicants.

LACNIC sent UD a nastygram in April, for example, when it discovered the registrar was offering preregistration in .lac.

Bizarrely, UD was at one stage accepting preregistration in .brand gTLDs in which literally no third party will qualify to buy a domain, such as .unicef.

ICANN has not to my recollection publicly stated a position on preregistration since 2000, when it said that “the practice of pre-registration should not be encouraged”.

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.