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Bob Parsons worth $1.5bn, ranked 293 on Forbes 400

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy executive chairman Bob Parsons is the 293rd wealthiest person in America, with a self-made fortune of $1.5 billion, according to the latest Forbes 400 rich list.

In its annual league table, published yesterday, Forbes ranks Parsons tied with tech investors such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Groupon co-founder Evan Lefkofsky.

Parsons, Go Daddy’s founder and erstwhile CEO, is a debutant on the list following his sale of a majority stake in the company to a group of institutional investors.

KKR, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures collectively bought out more than half of Go Daddy in a deal announced in July, reportedly worth north of $2 billion.

Go Daddy’s Bob Parsons set for Forbes rich list

Go Daddy founder and executive chairman Bob Parsons is likely to be included on the next Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, according to Forbes reporter Luisa Kroll.

Kroll estimates that Parsons will be worth at least $1.5 billion following the closure of its recent reported $2.25 billion investment with KKR, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Partners.

That valuation would place Parsons at #269 on the current Forbes rich list.

He would rank higher than former AOL CEO Steve Case, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, former eBay chief Meg Whitman and Yahoo’s Jerry Yang.

Parsons, whose public image is largely that of a regular guy fulfilling the American dream, reluctantly admitted that he may belong on the list, although he does not consider himself a billionaire, Kroll blogged.

“I am going to give most of the proceeds to a foundation,” Parsons reportedly said.

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 checkout charity raises $20k for Haiti

Go Daddy’s quietly launched “Round Up For Charity” scheme has so far raised over $20,000 for the Hope For Haiti appeal, according to the company.

The month-old initiative gives the domain name registrar’s customers the option to round their bill up to the nearest dollar when they buy a product on its web site. The proceeds go to the charity.

With a new .com costing $12.17, that works out to a $0.83 donation every time somebody checks the box. With that in mind, $20,000 works out to the equivalent of about 24,000 registrations.

I was expecting more, given how much business passes though Go Daddy’s site every day, but I guess not all donations will be as high as $0.83, and not everybody will check the box (there really is no excuse for not checking the box).

It’s a pretty cool idea, a good example of how a company can leverage scale to do some good in the world. Haiti could use all the help it can get at the moment.

Company CEO Bob Parsons has also promised to match his customers’ donations dollar for dollar, according to a press release. He’s also uploaded a video of a recent trip to Haiti here.

Namecheap poaches 20,000 domains from Go Daddy

A protest promo launched after Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons came under fire for shooting an elephant appears to have netted Namecheap about 20,000 domain name transfers.

The company tweeted from its official account last night: “Thank you Namecheap customers, new and old! We have raised $20,433 to savetheelephants.org. We appreciate your support!”

Given Namecheap had offered to donate $1 for every domain transferred using a special $4.99 coupon code, it looks like it received 20,433 transfers over the last week.

Parsons won’t lose any sleep over this. Go Daddy’s domains under management ticks up by the same amount every five hours.

It may be a more significant amount for Namecheap, which says it has over a million domains under its belt.

UPDATE: As Adam Strong notes in the comments, the 20,000 domains did not necessarily all come from Go Daddy, as the offer was open to anybody.

‘Hostel’ director slams Go Daddy CEO

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2011, Domain Services

Okay, this is getting weird.

Eli Roth, director of Hostel – one of the sickest horror films of recent years – has criticized Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons for his controversial elephant-hunting video.

In a series of Twitter posts last night, Roth condemned Parsons for his video, saying, among other things: “It’s sick fucks like you that make me think Hostel could really happen.”

If you haven’t seen Hostel, it’s basically about an Eastern European gang that lets wealthy Americans torture and murder kidnapped backpackers in exchange for a hefty fee.

It’s just about as grim a movie as you could imagine.

Here’s a screenshot of some of Roth’s tweets.

Eli Roth tweets

Compounding the weirdness, Roth was later retweeted by Russell Crowe.

Go Daddy CEO catches flak for “elephant snuff film”

Kevin Murphy, March 28, 2011, Domain Registrars

Bob Parsons has come in for criticism for a recent video diary in which he headed to Zimbabwe to hunt elephant.

A petition launched yesterday at Change.org, entitled “Tell Go Daddy’s CEO: Real Men Don’t Kill Elephants” has attracted over 400 signatures.

The petition describes Parsons’ video as “basically a gruesome, 4-minute elephant snuff film”.

You can watch it here, if you can stomach the AC/DC soundtrack, photos of Parsons grinning over the corpse, and the scene where dozens of Zimbabweans (many wearing Go Daddy baseball caps) greedily tear up the elephant’s carcass.

The justification presented in the video is that “problem” elephants have been destroying crops, putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk.

The petitioner says there are better, more humane ways of dealing with the problem.

I expect this kind of PR plays well to the NASCAR crowd. To desk-bound, liberal-elite media, city-boy vegetarians such as myself, less so.

Will Go Daddy be the next domain name IPO?

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2010, Domain Registrars

It was four years ago this week, August 8, 2006, when Bob Parsons unexpectedly canceled Go Daddy’s planned IPO at the eleventh hour.

But with its closest competitor, eNom parent Demand Media, ready to go public, eyes inevitably turn to Scottsdale to see if the market leader is ready to follow suit.

I’ve no doubt Go Daddy will be watching Demand’s IPO carefully, but there are some reasons to believe a me-too offering is not a short-term certainty.

Bob Parsons owns Go Daddy

First, and most importantly, Bob Parsons owns Go Daddy. At the time of the 2006 S-1, he was the company’s sole investor, and I believe that’s still the case.

Unlike Demand Media, which raised about $355 million in financing in its early days, Go Daddy doesn’t have a gang of institutional investors clamoring for a return on their investments.

The flip-side of this argument is that it does have is a loyal senior management team holding share options they’re not yet able to cash in on the public markets.

The fact that Parsons is still in charge may cause some investor nerves, given the trust hit he will have taken on Wall Street four years ago, but I don’t think that’s a massive consideration.

The IPO market is still poor

The first attempt at an IPO was canceled mainly due to poor market conditions, according to Parsons’ blog post at the time.

It had only been a few months since Vonage’s catastrophic offering, which saw early-mover investors lose millions, and there was little appetite for tech IPOs.

A lot has changed in the last four years, but the current tech IPO market is still struggling, with many companies recently under-pricing their offerings or losing value since.

According to VentureDeal stats reported at GigaOm, of the 21 tech IPOs in the first half of this year, only five were trading above their IPO price at the end of July. Most had seen double-digit declines.

While some analysts think the upcoming Skype and Demand Media IPOs could breathe life into the market, it’s far from a certainty.

Go Daddy is a cash cow

Go Daddy’s financial statements will look a lot healthier today that back in 2006.

Parsons said he yanked the IPO in part because there was too much focus on Go Daddy’s performance under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

Under GAAP, Go Daddy was a loss-making company, due to the way that revenue from domain names has to be recognized over the course of the registration while the associated costs are incurred up-front.

This meant that Go Daddy was a cash machine – with something like $95 million of deferred revenue on its balance sheet at the time of the 2006 filing – but technically unprofitable.

Whether this has changed or not, I don’t know; Go Daddy is still growing. But it’s a lot larger now than it was in 2006, and its cashflow and balance sheets will certainly look impressive even if its income statement does not.

I’m guessing a lot will depend on how Demand performs over the coming months as to whether Go Daddy follows its lead.

But Parsons said four years ago that the firm would revisit the public markets again, and I’m sure we won’t have too long to wait until it does.

Demand Media in rumored IPO

Kevin Murphy, April 16, 2010, Domain Registrars

Demand Media, which owns number-two domain registrar eNom, could file to go public this summer, the Financial Times has reported.

Widely thought of as a “content mill”, Demand is in the business of mining search and domain data and pumping out content which it can sell ads against.

The FT, using anonymous sources, reports that an IPO, which could happen by November, would value the firm at $1.5 billion. Revenue is estimated to be around $250 million a year.

While selling domain names does not appear to be Demand’s core business, other domain name registrars have a rocky record when it comes to public listings.

Register.com, which used its early-mover advantage to IPO at the tail end of the dot-com boom, ended up going private after low-cost registrars like Go Daddy started eating its lunch.

Go Daddy itself gave the world a glimpse at its finances when it filed its S-1 back in 2006, but CEO Bob Parsons yanked the IPO at the eleventh hour, citing poor market conditions and his inability to keep his mouth shut during the traditional pre-offering Quiet Period.

Parsons said at the time that it’s hard to show a profit under GAAP as a growing registrar, due to the way registrations are accounted for.

Tucows, meanwhile, has managed to tick along quietly with a listing on the small-cap markets for years.