We love the domain name industry. It’s a total rush. Everyday there are deals being done, fortunes being made (and sometimes lost if you get to renew an awesome domain!). Like any industry, the domain name game has it’s kings, it’s Michael Jordan’s, it’s celebrities.
In this post we’re going to introduce you to the 5 most (arguably) famous domainers of all time. We say arguably because this is totally up for debate. We selected the top 5 based on loose criteria like;
The awesomeness of their domain name portfolio:
- The number of zero’s their highest domain had sold for
- How cool their war stories are
- If they are still doing domain stuff today or not
Alright, with that introduction out of the way - let’s get into the list! (By the way, these are in no specific order).
When you Google Frank’s name one of the first things you see is that his company is registered in the Cayman Islands - badass.
Our list starts off with Frank Schilling who was named both the ‘greatest domain name investor of all time’ AND ‘the most influential person in the domain name industry’, not bad not bad.
Schilling got his start domaining back in 2001, starting off with buying one domain name - just like everyone else.
Unlike most of us though Schilling got a lucky break early on. He’d registered a few great domain names in the construction niche and convinced an Australian company to buy all 10 of them. He wanted 10K for the lot, they however thought he wanted 10K for them each and so they sent him 100K. Schilling admits this was a massive leg up for him in this interview.
Rather than resting on his laurels though Frank got to work with that initial win, building up an incredible portfolio of generic domain names. Sometime around 2002 a publicly listed company called Marchex offered him $100 million dollars for his portfolio. That deal never came through though because of a hurricane that destroyed his home in the Cayman Islands...don’t you hate it when that happens?
Today Frank Schilling is still regarded as one of the nicest people in the domain industry and is the main backer behind Uniregistry, a whale in the domain name game with more than 1.5 million domain names in its portfolio.
This would hardly be a credible list of the most famous domainers if we didn’t have the domain king himself, Rick Schwartz.
This guy is like the godfather of the domain name industry. He got his start back in December of 1995 with his first domain name; lipservice.com. Next he got dick.com, for $100. He quickly realised that owning domain names was as good as (and probably more profitable) than owning real estate.
Unlike a few other people in this list, Rick didn’t seem to care about quantity. He focused heavily on the quality of the domain names he bought and sold. And he wasn’t afraid to buy domain names in the adult industry with ones such as ass.com, bitch.com and whore.com. The sales of his domain names have broken industry records.
Some of Rick’s most famous domain name sales:
- Porno.com - sold for $8,888,888 (after he’d already made $15,000,000 in advertising revenue on the domain)
- Men.com - sold for $1,300,000. He bought it for $15,000 6 years earlier.
- Candy.com - sold for $3,000,000
Rick has also been a stalwart supporter of the domain name industry, financing and producing the first and leading trade show for 10 years.
These days you can find Rick on Twitter, and it looks like he’s now really getting into the new boom around cryptocurrencies. The man sure knows how to recognise an opportunity when he sees one. Find more about Rick’s story in his own words here.
Gary is the definition of resilient.
I first heard about Gary listening to the Startup Podcast episode; Sex Dot Con. It’s a painful story, and I felt a lot of empathy for Gary.
Gary Kremen is a well accomplished guy, with some impressive runs on the board: Invented online dating, founded Match.com Invented dynamic web pages and sold the patent for over $1,000,000 Has raised over $60,000,000 for his solar power financing company; Clean Power Finance.
But, the reason that Gary is on this list, and was featured in that podcast episode is because of one particular domain name that he registered.
That’s right, this badass registered sex.com back in 1994. But there was no quick happy ending to this story.
Unbelievably the domain name was fraudulently stolen out from under his nose by one mr Stephen M Cohen. Cohen managed to resist Kremen’s legal efforts to reclaim the domain name for over 6 years. Eventually the courts awarded Kremen a $65,000,000 judgement, but Cohen never paid up. He was eventually arrested and put in jail.
Eventually (thank god!) Kremen got the domain name back (as well as Cohen’s mansion - LOL) before selling it for $15,000,000.
Whilst Mike looks like a total badass in his Twitter profile photo, he actually does a lot for charity through Grassroots.org.
In 1998 Mike Mann sold menus.com for $25,000, having purchased it for only $70. It was the beginning of a long successful career within an industry that rewarded those who were willing to take big risks and put in a shit load of work.
His company DomainMarket has about 350,000 domain names registered and he’s known for once having registered 14,962 in 24 hours.
Articles like this one in the Washington Post have made him famous, which talk about some of his better domain names including happybirthday.com and seo.com.
He sold his first domain company for a cool $80,000,000, walking away with a $25,000,000 share.
“If you control all the domains, you control the internet.” - Kevin Ham, 2007.
10 years ago, CNN published a piece that said Kevin ran a $300 million domain name empire generating $70 million a year in revenue. Fast forward to today, and who knows what that empire is worth.
Originally trained as a doctor, Ham got his start back in the year 2000. Being a devout Christian, some of Kevin’s best domains included God.com, Satan.com and Religion.com
One of the best deals that Ham made though would have to be .cm deal. Direct misspellings are a boon to domainers. For example, if you type in facebook.cm instead of the correct domain. Kevin did a deal with the Cameroon government, letting him direct pretty much all mispelt .cm domains to webpages where he had advertising setup. This deal alone made Kevin tens of millions of dollars.
It’s hard to find him online these days though, he keeps a low profile. What we do know however is that he’s sold a portion of those domains fairly recently to GoDaddy for some part of $50,000,000. Nice.