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November 15, 2019updated 18 Nov 2019 10:48am

The Internet Society Flogs .Org Rights to Private Equity Fund

Deal comes after price hike agreement with ICANN

By CBR Staff Writer

US non-profit organisation The Internet Society is selling its assets – including the Public Interest Registry (PIR) which owns the right to .org domains – to a private equity company, Ethos Capital, for an undisclosed sum. The deal puts the registry of 10 million global .org domain names and their cash flow in private hands.

Ethos Capital, a newly founded private equity firm, will acquire both the Internet Society and its Public Interest Registry (PIR) – an entity set up to manage the .org registry in 2002 – in a transaction expected to close early next year. The deal comes five months after after ICANN (a non-profit that coordinates domain names) agreed to remove price caps on .org domain names, against widespread opposition.

Richard Kirkendall, CEO of Namecheap, which filed a reconsideration request with ICANN over the .org price cap removal, told Domain Name Wire’s Andrew Alleman that he was “disturbed” by the deal. He said: “Obviously, we are disturbed by the timing of this transaction and how it reflects on the decision by ICANN to lift the price caps. While we all as registrars will be affected by this sale, the biggest losers will be our customers and all other .org holders who are sure to see their renewal prices increase over time.”

The deal was advised by Goldman Sachs on The Internet Society and PIR side, and Macquarie Capital on the Ethos Capital side.

The Internet Society: “An Endowment of Sustainable Funding”

“This is an important and exciting development for both the Internet Society and Public Interest Registry,” said Andrew Sullivan, the Internet Society’s president and CEO.

He added: “This transaction will provide the Internet Society with an endowment of sustainable funding and the resources to advance our mission on a broader scale as we continue our work to make the Internet more open, accessible and secure.”

“We are excited to support PIR’s mission and build upon the incredible work it has done to promote success and positive impact for the .ORG Community,” said Erik Brooks, Founder & CEO of Ethos Capital (previously with Boston-based PE fund Abry Partners).

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He added: “We are committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations and enhancing the relationships PIR has established over the years. We look forward to continuing PIR’s longstanding partnerships and vendor affiliations to ensure domain operations run smoothly and without interruption.”

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