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‘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.

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