In 2010, sex.com, one of the most valuable domains in the world, was listed at Maltz Auctions to be sold at a foreclosure auction. It was sold four years earlier in 2006 for an undisclosed amount, then rumored to be the highest domain sale ever. The owners, Escom LLC had gone bankrupt and were looking to sell their assets.
Sex.com has an interesting history filled with turmoil. First, sex.com has always been a highly sought-after name for obvious reasons. Additionally, it has been stolen, sold multiple times, and has been in foreclosure.
Sex.com, a story of two men
The story of sex.com is a Hamilton-Burr-esque story of two men, Gary Kremen and Stephen Cohen dueling it out for domain glory. The story begins in 1994 when Kremen, an online entrepreneur registered sex.com. He initially just sat on sex.com while building his online dating empire match.com. The thing is though, in the early days of the Internet before Google, people browsed online by simply typing in domains into the URL bar. This meant sex.com was a potential gold mine, just waiting for millions of curious Internet users to type “sex.com” and see where it would take them.
One day, Kremen gets notified that the sex.com email has been changed. After looking into the issue, he found that all of the ownership information for the domain had been changed to the information of a man by the name of Stephen Cohen, a conniving trickster who would soon become Kremen’s lifelong rival. Kremen calls Cohen and is essentially told to kick rocks. It’s unclear exactly how Cohen was able to steal the domain, but word is that Cohen found a loophole that allowed him to put in an amend request. Another theory is that Cohen got help from the inside by sleeping with someone at Kremen’s company. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact was that, somehow, Cohen stole ownership of the domain.
Kremen, no schmuck himself, wasn’t going to lay down and give up his domain without a fight. So he did what any smart businessman would do in his situation – he got himself a lawyer. At the same time, Cohen began operating the site, making up to half a million dollars a day running advertisements. Cohen was making a fortune by doing nothing essentially. He simply had to put up ads on an empty website that would garner millions of visitors just by existing (the proverbial “pot of gold” in the domain world).
This is when the rivalry really caught fire. The legal battle lasted five years. Both men were unwilling to lose to the other. Eventually, Kremen won the case when the judge rules that domain names are intangible property that cannot be stolen. Cohen actually appealed the case to the Supreme Court, although it was never heard. As a result of the court decision, Cohen owed Kremen $64 million in lost revenue over the time Cohen owned the domain.
So Cohen paid back the $64 million to Kremen and everything was peaches and cream from there on out, right? Wrong. Cohen fled to Tijuana, Mexico to avoid paying Kremen. Kremen, being a tenacious and determined businessman, chased Cohen to Mexico and posted “wanted” signs all over the city. It’s conjecture, but it is claimed that these “wanted” posters resulted in bounty hunters chasing down Cohen and a shootout with the Mexican police.
At a certain point, Cohen was extradited from Mexico by US authorities and sentenced to six months in jail. But to this day, Kremen has yet to receive a penny from Cohen as the judges have given up on making him pay. It’s not for a lack of effort on Kremen’s part, though. He has chased Cohen around the world for 10 years, akin to the film “Catch me if You Can.” Who knows if Kremen will ever receive justice.
Kremen ended up selling the domain at auction for $13 million dollars. That’s when Escom entered the picture.
Back to Escom
In another twist, Escom’s creditors filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition against the company. The creditors wanted to prevent loss of value by selling the name at auction. In a settlement, the court allowed Escom to sell the domain through Sedo, a domain brokerage company.
When all was said and done, now-Saw.com CEO Jeffrey Gabriel sold the domain, Sex.com, to Clover Holdings for $13 million, the highest domain sale on record at the time.