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  • Why $1.2 million for Rockies.com didn’t pass my sniff test

    1. BY - Jan 11, 2013
    2. Domain Sales
    3. 24 Comments

    Major League Baseball is denying that it paid $1.2 million when it bought Rockies.com. That doesn’t surprise me.

    MLBThis week you may have wondered why I didn’t cover the purchase of Rockies.com by Major League Baseball.

    After all, I’ve chronicled MLB’s quest to acquire the domain names of each of its 30 teams. I believe I was also the first to write about Rockies.com going up for sale.

    Here’s why I didn’t cover it:

    I didn’t believe it.

    Well, I believed half of it. Major League Baseball clearly bought the domain.

    But the $1.2 million price didn’t make sense.

    It didn’t make sense based on the history of MLB’s domain name acquisitions. I was also wary of the information because of some email conversations I had with a supposed journalist.

    Major League Baseball’s domain buying history

    MLB has purchased two team names in recent years for which we have some sort of idea of what it paid.

    One is Angels.com, which it bought in a public auction on Sedo for $200,000. The seller originally asked $300,000. The Los Angeles Angels baseball team responded by filing a UDRP (which it lost).

    The second is Athletics.com. It’s unclear how much the domain sold for, but MLB passed on buying it at an auction when the reserve price was $500,000-$750,000. It bought it later, so you can assume it paid less than $750,000 for the domain — and probably less than $500k.

    These two purchases show that MLB plays hardball when it comes to acquiring domains. It doesn’t jump in right away to buy a domain if it’s too expensive.

    So $1.2 million for Rockies.com? It’s plausible, but it set off alarm bells in my head. Did MLB just decide “to heck with it, we want to get the domain, let’s fork over seven figures?” Perhaps. But something was funny, especially because of details around the sales process of the domain.

    The back story

    In July I received an email from a guy named Thomas who claimed to be a freelance writer doing work for MSNBC. He was inquiring about prices paid for MLB team domain names. I responded with some information and we exchanged a couple emails.

    Then in September Thomas emailed me again, informing me that he found out Rockies.com was going to be offered for sale.

    “I’m not able to break this story, but Rockies.com is now for sale,” he wrote. “I can email you the contact details of the group selling it.”

    I didn’t understand why he couldn’t break the story, especially because he said he was now doing some work for the Denver Post. I googled his name and couldn’t find any of his writings.

    But the story that Rockies.com was for sale checked out. I was able to confirm this with someone with a Rockies.com email address.

    The deal was being brokered by an outfit called Venture Capital Group Ltd.

    You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of this broker. It registered its domain name using whois privacy in July 2012. It was registered just days after Thomas initially emailed me.

    The choice of broker was odd, but I figured it was just some sort of deal between the owner of Rockies.com and someone they knew. And my story — that Rockies.com was for sale — was true. So I ran with it.

    That was in September, and news of the domainer group that bought Cowboys.com turning it into a gay dating site was getting lots of media attention.

    Yet on September 24, the same day Thomas reached out to me about the domain being for sale and before I posted my story, Thomas made a quip “I think the site might be on the verge of selling. I got word that the gay dating company who bought cowboys.com has inquired about rockies.com.”

    He followed up again with a “scoop” on September 28:

    “You might want to check into this…..I have learned that the people behind cowboys.com have submitted a big offer for Rockies.com. I have an attorney friend that mentioned this to me at lunch today…”

    Wow, this guy has a lot of scoop for a freelance reporter that for some reason can’t write about Rockies.com.

    That the Cowboys.com group would make an offer struck me as odd. The group of domainers that bought the domain includes a number of the biggest domain personalities. Its purchase was opportunistic. They don’t strike me as a business “group” other than this one domain purchase. But I checked with one of the Cowboys.com owners to see if it was true. He said it was false.

    Thomas, the persistent freelancer with a keen interest in the Rockies.com sale and a connection to a lawyer with insider knowledge, emailed me again on October 16 to ask “So did Cowboys.com people buy Rockies.com?”.

    “Nope”, I responded.

    “Did they confirm that?”

    “Yes with one of the cowboys.com owners.”

    That’s the last I heard from Thomas. I was rather suspect of who this guy was and what his motives were. And, other than his correct information about Rockies.com being for sale, he was now sharing bad information.

    The sellers of Rockies.com would certainly want MLB to think the domain was about to fall in the hands of a group that would turn it into a gay dating site. Which made me really suspicious. Thomas wanted me to write something, but he was tripped up when I tried to corroborate his story.

    The $1.2 million announcement

    On Tuesday, Venture Capital Group LTD posted a news item to its web site stating that Rockies.com was purchased by MLB $1.2 million.

    Shortly thereafter the same story (we’ll call it a press release) was published on GroundReport.com.

    The author’s handle? Thomas3405.

    The release stated that the seller would now use CanadianRockies.org as its domain name.

    Guess what the contact email is for CanadianRockies.org? My good friend the freelance journalist Thomas.

    Knowing what I knew, the first thing I did was email Major League Baseball’s VP of Corporate Communications, Matthew Gould. I called him as well. I also emailed Venture Capital Group Ltd, which told me they couldn’t provide any documentation but could get me in touch with the sellers.

    Gould has yet to respond to my email and phone inquiries, but he got in touch with the author of one story.

    Baseball America, one of the news outlets to cover the story, said it had heard from Gould. Gould denied the sales price.

    I’m going to trust that over a press release by a web site formed in July using whois privacy.

    It also gets interesting when you look at the web of sites related to CanadianRockies.org. I called the contact on the whois record that is supposedly in Florida. I was transferred to another person who said the person who had knowledge of the sale was out until Monday.

    Also interesting: when the whois privacy on Rockies.com was unmasked it showed a Costa Rican entity. The email address on the whois record had an email at rockiesmedia.com. However, I called the person in the whois for RockiesMedia.com and he said he hasn’t been involved with the domain name for a decade.

    So what happened?

    We know MLB bought the domain name Rockies.com. We also have the buyer denying the price tag and citing confidentiality agreements for not disclosing the price. History tells us the domain probably sold for a lot less.

    The nagging questions: why did the seller quote an inaccurate price? What did they hope to gain? And how did they expect MLB to not go on record denying it?

24 Comments
  • Good digging.

    It struck me as such a pointless lie I couldn’t imagine it not being true.

  • Andrew,
    Not sure I follow your logic.
    I DO think the domain sold for a number very close to that.
    The REASON the guy denied the price was a simple one. He does not want to have to pay that number to other transactions he is negotiating on. So there is a HUGE motive. If it was even $1 difference, his claim is technically right.

    Sometimes you gotta read between the lines plus this was also reported in Forbes.

    So who has the #1 motive to say they paid less than $1.2 and then you will likely find the real answer.

    JMO!

  • Q: What is the minimum salary of a Major Leaguer?
    A: The minimum salary for the 2012 season is $480,000.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/pa/info/faq.jsp#minimum

    The owners of baseball teams are billionaires or close to it, and they pay $480k for a bench player who sits there 95% of the year, but they and MLB scoff at paying that same amount for the team’s .com domain name? I don’t get it, but I guess you can’t try to think logically about the illogical.

    Pay a bench player to sit for 1 year or own the team .com for life… hmmm, wonder which one makes a better business decision. Makes you wonder how they became billionaires with that business acumen.

  • Awesome Job

  • If it was not $1.2(5) million, why Venture Capital would announce that lie? I see no benefit/reason…

  • Let’s go back to 2004. MLB paid a whopping $20,000 for Nationals.com.
    http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/domainsales/2004/domainsales12_21_04.htm

  • Good story Andrew

  • Andrew,
    Simple. The recourse usually has a penalty of reimbursement.
    So if there is no threat of that, then the NDA is moot.

    Besides, he may have reported an approximate amount without violating the terms of the contract.

    Point is MLB is really the only party that has a motive to keep it confidential and that is for future purchases. I just think the cat got out of the bag and he reacted the best he could.

    Millions are at stake here in future purchases and future negotiations. I always follow the money and the motive and until there is concrete evidence to the contrary, my scenario seems more likely from where I sit.

  • I think it all has to do with the party that owned it prior, would be impossible to win a udrp against them, and they probably got a kick out of having a chip over the mlb, for a tourism board to sell a domain that brings economic gain to their region, they would need a long sustaining bankroll to replace that with. The number could be plausible, and mlb could be backtracking, for future purchases sake, or not to be seen by the uneducated side of the domaining public for throwing money around.

  • Rick – you were never more right. Andrew – you are wrong and time will prove it…

  • What a Cluster!

    It isn’t hard to believe a $1 million+ price tag, given the kind of money MLB makes. Drop in the bucket.

  • The name never sold for $1m +

    any press is good press :) VC company making waves.

    MLB have NDA for future purchaes. (with conditions attached)

    It wont be reported in dnjournal. as there is no proof.

    Payments, split up into smaller amounts,no real visable trace to the public. (unless a forensic accountant looks through)

    Thats my guess :)

    anyone waving there pom poms about is trying to justify a recent post, pumping there own name :)

  • Schwartz's Anus says:

    January 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Keep up the good work, Andrew

    Not the usual bandwagon domainer hypetrain

    This case highlights the usual domainer shenanigans

    Anything which supports their book

    That’s the problem with domainers

    Full of dreamers & their pithy soundbite memes

    ‘They have billions, $1 M is drop in ocean’, yada yada

    Sorry Schwarz, no money for you!

  • Great reporting Andrew

  • angelshigh.com anyone?

  • I believe OJ Simpson denied he did it as well.

  • Seems like a lie which they hoped you reported on could forced MLB hand, as you stated.

    So who is Thomas, the story cannot end here lol

  • Reminds me of the interesting back story to a piece of baseball memorabilia that is expected to fetch up to six figures in an upcoming auction.

    http://haulsofshame.com/blog/?p=15723

  • Nice article. I agree with you, the story totally smells funny.
    Keep up the good work!

  • comment removed – fake email

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