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Sex.com sells: $13 million bought the Internet domain name; no price on its scintillating history

sex.com.jpg

A conman, a titillating site, a flight to Mexico: Sex.com has quite the history. Now it has quite a price tag. The domain name just sold for $13 million, the BBC reports. The sale will be finalized Oct. 27, pending approval by a bankruptcy court.

The site was first registered by Gary Kremen, the owner of the dating site Match.com, in 1994 as part of his plan to take hold of a number of domain names, such as jobs.com, while they were still free. He spent the early years focusing on his fledgling dating site and largely ignoring the other domains.

In 1997, however, he noticed he had a squatter on one of his properties: A conman, Stephen Cohen, had taken control of Sex.com. Cohen had forged a letter of ownership and started selling banner ads to other porn sites, raking in an estimated $500,000 a month.

Kremen took Cohen to court and, after a lengthy legal battle, was awarded the domain name and a $65 million settlement. Rather than paying the sum, Cohen hightailed it out of the U.S., settling in a house in Tijuana where he siphoned money from his U.S. bank accounts. All Kremen wound up with was Cohen's mansion in a suburb of San Diego and a small house in Tijuana.

Here's where things get juicy. (Hollywood, hello? Where's the movie?) Cohen claims Kreman put out a large bounty for Cohen's capture. Bounty hunters descended on Cohen's Tijuana home. The bounty hunters and the Mexican authorities got into a shoot-out, putting Cohen's life into danger. The conman managed to escape and fled to Monte Carlo.

Finally in 2005, Cohen was arrested in Tijuana and served time in jail, but he was released the following year. Kieren Mccarthy, author of "The Brutal Battle for Sex.com," wrote that soon after his release, Cohen hacked onto the Sex.com site and Kremen's Wikipedia page, writing slurs against Kremen.

In 2006, Kremen sold the domain name for $12 million to Escom LLC.

Escom was unable to make the domain profitable and declared bankruptcy. A public auction was held in September this year and the winner seems to be Clover Holdings Ltd., a company registered in the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent -- and little is known about the company.

The price went up only $1 million in four years. McCarthy suggests on his blog that "the buyers kept Escom down to the original price because they knew Escom had no real choice."

No word on what the new owners plan to do with the site. However, my hope is that the new owner turns out to be Cohen in disguise. Cohen, Clover? They sound similar enough. Perhaps the man finally got what he wanted all along: a little Sex.com.

By Melissa Bell  | October 21, 2010; 8:16 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Comments

Sex.com will never be anything more than a footnote in the history of the internet. Domainers are bottom feeding cybersquatters. The site was a joke when Escom owned it. A kid in elementary school could have designed a better website. The fact that some idiot paid that much money for it is crazy.

What this country needs are more brick and mortar businesses that actually produce real products. Domain names and the domainers who sell them contribute nothing to society. They only care about money and screwing over people with overpriced domain names.

Posted by: mgbethesda | October 21, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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