A pandemic throws a new wrinkle in the deal to sell off .org.
Public Interest Registry, Ethos Capital and Internet Society have agreed to extend the deadline for ICANN to make a decision on the sale of .org to April 20. They want ICANN to decide by this date.
So what happens now?
COVID-19 was a wrinkle no one foresaw. With California in lockdown, both ICANN and the California Attorney General (which is investigating the deal) have a lot on their plates. I could see this going either way: the California AG could decide it has more significant issues to deal with and let this deal slide, or it could ask for more time, which would put the deal at higher risk. We’re in unprecedented territory here, so it’s hard to bet on which of these is more likely.
The world is also now in a cash crunch. Lots of buyers are backing out of deals or renegotiating the terms. But in this highly public deal, it would be almost impossible for Ethos to go back to Internet Society and ask for better terms.
It’s possible that Ethos’ backers are having second thoughts. I also wonder if the $360 million in loans Ethos plans to use to partially finance the deal are in jeopardy.
Of course, COVID-19 will pass. If you were investing in anything right now, a good registry like .org (or .com) is probably the safest bet.
My money has always been for this deal to still happen. But I didn’t think the world’s fifth-biggest economy would go into shutdown, either. Its largest economy probably isn’t far behind