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Top Stories: Private equity company acquires .Org

Ethos Capital acquires .org for $1.135 billion.

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The biggest shock to many people in the domain industry in 2019 was Ethos Capital acquiring the .org registry contract from Internet Society for $1.135 billion.

The deal was announced soon after ICANN removed price caps on .org domains, meaning that Ethos can charge whatever it wants when people register or renew a .org domain.

Non-profits, including some of Internet Society’s own chapters, are obviously upset about this. So are registrars and registrants.

The deal was put in motion by former ICANN Fadi Chehadé. He left ICANN and joined private equity company Abry Partners as an advisor. He advised the company on its acquisition of Donuts. On the Abry side, partner Erik Brooks worked on the Donuts deal and became a board member. Then Fadi advised Brooks on acquiring .org, which Brooks is running through Ethos.

That the former ICANN CEO is now profiting from the industry he oversaw (and some of the things he put in place) leaves a bad taste in many peoples’ mouths.

For its part, Ethos has said what it needs to say to get the deal done. It will maintain reasonable prices. It will work with the community on their concerns about censorship. It plans to hold this investment for a long time.

But, so far, none of this is contractual. Once ICANN gives the green light, Ethos can do whatever it wants. It can flip the registry in a year for more money. It can raise prices as high as it wants to.

ICANN has postponed its approval, but I expect this deal to ultimately go through.

It won’t be the end of the world as long as Ethos and subsequent owners keeps prices in check. If it doesn’t, the stability of the DNS will be impacted.

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Author: Andrew Allemann

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