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TLDH bags $10m in share sale

Top Level Domain Holdings has raised roughly $10 million by selling shares to institutional investors and directors.

The company, listed on the Alternative Investment Market in London, said today it has placed 110,375,276 new ordinary shares at £0.06 apiece.

The money will be used to help the company win some new gTLD contention set auctions and to promote the uncontested geo .london, which TLDH has been hired to manage.

The company is involved in 88 new gTLDs, some as applicant and some as back-end registry provider via its Minds + Machines subsidiary.

TLDH said it expects to start launching TLDs in the fourth quarter.

New hires at Donuts, DomainDiction and 101domain

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2013, Domain Services

It’s been a busy week in the industry for executive switcheroos, with Donuts, DomainDiction and 101domain all announcing senior-level hires.

Today it emerged that Elaine Pruis, a long-time key member of the Minds + Machines team, has jumped to rival new gTLD applicant Donuts, where she’s now director of operations.

That’s quite a surprising move, coming so soon before gTLDs start getting delegated and — perhaps more importantly — contention set resolution deadlines start closing in.

DomainDiction, the gTLD-focused PR agency, has meanwhile lost one top expert and gained two others.

Pinky Brand, an alum of .mobi, Verisign and Iron Mountain, has gone solo, launching his own consulting business under the name [ PINKY ] • BRAND.

Former NetNames strategy director Stephane Van Gelder, an occasional DI guest poster, has been brought on as lobbyist and copywriter, while IP lawyer Bart Lieben has been hired for his considerable expertise in sunrise periods.

Neither man is on DomainDiction’s exclusive payroll, and continue to have other projects.

Finally, 101domain yesterday announced that it’s hired Joe Alagna as head of channel development. Alagna until recently worked in the registry world, as CentralNic’s general manager for North America.

Fight over new sports gTLDs gets real ugly

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2013, Domain Registries

The battle for contested new gTLDs .rugby and .basketball is turning nasty.

Roar Domains, a New Zealand marketing firm whose gTLD applications are backed by the official international bodies for both sports, is promising to pull out all the stops to kill off its competition.

The company, which is partnered with Minds + Machines on both bids, has told rival portfolio applicant Donuts that it will attack its applications for the two TLDs on at least three fronts.

Notably, Roar wants Donuts disqualified from the entire new gTLD program, and plans to lobby to have Donuts fail its background check.

The company told Donuts last month:

while we have no desire to join the chorus of voices speaking out against Donuts, it is incumbent on us to pursue the automatic disqualification of Applicant Guidebook Section 1.2.1, and every opposition and objection process available to us.

Applicant Guidebook section 1.2.1 deals with background checks.

Donuts came under more scrutiny than most on these grounds during the new gTLDs public comment period last year due to its co-founders being involved at the sharp end of domain investment over the last decade.

Demand Media and eNom, where founder Paul Stahura was a senior executive, have lost many UDRP cases over the years.

A mystery lawyer who refuses to disclose his clients started pursuing Donuts last August, saying the company is “unsuited and ineligible to participate in the new gTLD program.”

Separate (pseudonymous?) public comments fingered a former Donuts director for allegedly cybersquatting the Olympics and Disney.

While Roar has not claimed responsibility for these specific previous attacks, it certainly seems to be planning something similar in future.

In addition, Roar and International Rugby Board, which supports Roar’s application for .rugby, say they plan to official objections with ICANN about rival .rugby bids.

The IRB told Donuts, in a letter shortly before Christmas:

As the global representative of the sport and the only applicant vested with the trust and representation of the rugby community, we are unquestionably the rightful steward of .RUGBY.

Without the support of the global rugby community your commercialization efforts for .RUGBY will be thwarted. We are also preparing an objection to file against your application in accordance with ICANN rules to which you will be required to dedicate resources to formulate a response.

Roar and the IRB are also both lobbying members of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, which has the power to file potentially decisive GAC Advice against any application.

Roar told Donuts recently:

Roar serves as the voice and arm for FIBA [the International Basketball Federation] and IRB in the New gTLD area. We are pleased to have obtained four Early Warnings on behalf of our applications, and fully expect the GAC process to be completed to GAC Advice.

The Early Warnings against the two other .rugby applicants were filed by the UK government — the only warnings it filed — while Greece warned the two non-Roar .basketball applicants.

Roar is also involved with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) on its .basketball bid.

While commercial interests obviously play a huge role, there’s a philosophical disagreement at the heart of these fights that could be encapsulated in the following question:

Should new gTLDs only be delegated to companies and organizations most closely affiliated with those strings?

In response to the UK’s Early Warning, Donut has written to UK GAC representative Mark Carvell asking for face-to-face talks and making the case for a “neutral” registry provider for .rugby.

Donuts told Carvell:

We believe gTLDs should be run safely and securely, and in a manner that is fair to all law-­abiding registrants, not only those predetermined as eligible. A neutral third party, such as Donuts, can be best capable of achieving this outcome.

Donuts believes a neutral operator is better able to ensure that the gTLD reflects the full diversity of opinion and content of all Internet users who are interested in the term “rugby.”

As the IRB is a powerful voice in rugby, an IRB‐managed registry might not be neutral in its operations, raising questions about its ability to impartially oversee the gTLD. For example, will IRB/Roar chill free speech by censoring content adversarial to their interests? How would they treat third parties who are interested in rugby but aren’t part of the IRB? What about IRB critics or potential rival leagues?

Despite these questions, no .rugby applicant has said it plans to operate a restricted registry. There are no applications for .basketball or .rugby designated as “Community” bids.

The IRB/Roar application specifically states “anyone can register a .rugby domain name.”

Both .basketball and .rugby are contested by Roar (FIBA/IRB/M+M), Donuts (via subsidiaries) and portfolio applicant Domain Venture Partners (aka Famous Four Media, also via subsidiaries).

Roar is a sports marketing agency that is also involved in bids for .baseball, .soccer, .football and .futbol. The New Zealand national team football captain, Ryan Nelsen, is on its board.

Here are the letters (pdf).

TLDH hires ICANN’s former new gTLDs head

Kevin Murphy, December 3, 2012, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has hired Michael Salazar, former head of the new gTLD program at ICANN, as its chief financial officer.

The hire, which is still subject to some regulatory checks, will also see Salazar become an executive director of the company, which has applied for dozens of new gTLDs.

Salazar was at ICANN for three years, before leaving this June in the wake of the TLD Application System and Digital Archery messes.

Before ICANN, he was with KPMG for 16 years, according to TLDH.

It’s the second time TLDH has brought a former ICANNer on board to fill a senior role.

Former chair Peter Dengate Thrush controversially joined the company as executive chairman in July 2011, but recently announced that he will be leaving the company in January.

Salazer replaces David Weill, CFO as well as a founding director of the company, who is leaving. He’s the second original director, after Clark Landry, to quit in as many months.

Dengate Thrush quits TLDH

Kevin Murphy, October 18, 2012, Domain Registries

Peter Dengate Thrush, executive chairman of new gTLD portfolio applicant Top Level Domain Holdings, has decided to quit not much more than a year into the job.

According to a press release, Dengate Thrush will leave the company in January 2013, to be replaced by original chair Fred Krueger.

No reason for the departure was given.

When he joined TLDH, his share option package envisaged him sticking around until at least July 2014.

Dengate Thrush will continue to advise some of TLDH’s new gTLD applicant clients after he leaves, according to the press release.

His decision to join TLDH in July 2011, just a few weeks after helping to push through approval of the new gTLD program as ICANN’s chairman, was a nodal point in ICANN’s recent evolution.

It led directly to strict conflict of interest rules being put in place on ICANN’s board, which are now being criticized by some contracted parties for removing vital expertise from the board.

It also gave plenty of ammunition to those who criticize ICANN for being too focused on enriching its insiders.

TLDH has applied for 70 gTLDs, and its Minds + Machines subsidiary is the named back-end provider for several more.