PIR, Operator of .Org Registry, to be Acquired

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George Kirikos alerted me to a press release announcing that Public Interest Registry (PIR) is set to be acquired by a private equity company called Ethos Capital. The news was announced in a press release a short while ago:

This acquisition comes on the heels of an ICANN decision that will remove price caps from .org domain names. I previously covered this when the ICA publicly responded to the ICANN news release informing the public of this decision.

The founder and CEO of Ethos Capital is a person named Erik Brooks. Notably in his brief bio on the Ethos website, “Mr. Brooks was a Managing Partner and head of the Heritage Fund at Abry Partners.” You may recall that Abry acquired a majority stake in Donuts in 2018. Donuts operates the largest portfolio of new gTLD domain names. The Chief Purpose Officer of the company, Nora Abusitta-Ouri, has experience at ICANN listed in her bio on the website.

With the price caps on .org domain names lifted, I can see why this acquisition would be appealing. It will be interesting to see what happens with .org pricing under new ownership. I think any major pricing changes that impact the organizations that use .org domain names could lead to an outcry.

From what I can see, the acquisition price of PIR and the .org registry it manages is not being publicized. The press release has been shared below:

Ethos Capital to Acquire Public Interest Registry from the Internet Society
Public Interest Registry Will Continue Management and Mission of .ORG Under New Ownership

November 13, 2019 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
RESTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Internet Society and Public Interest Registry (PIR) today announced that they have reached an agreement with Ethos Capital, under which Ethos Capital will acquire PIR and all of its assets from the Internet Society. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of next year.

“This is an important and exciting development for both the Internet Society and Public Interest Registry,” said Andrew Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Internet Society, the organization that established Public Interest Registry. “This transaction will provide the Internet Society with an endowment of sustainable funding and the resources to advance our mission on a broader scale as we continue our work to make the Internet more open, accessible and secure – for everyone. It also aligns Public Interest Registry with Ethos Capital, a strong strategic partner that understands the intricacies of the domain industry and has the expertise, experience and shared values to further advance the goals of .ORG into the future.”

“Since the inception of Public Interest Registry, our mission has been to enable the .ORG Community to use the Internet more effectively and change the world for the better,” stated Jon Nevett, CEO of Public Interest Registry. “That will not change. We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the Internet Society, and are thrilled that we will be able to continue – and expand – our important work with Ethos Capital while sustaining our commitment to the .ORG Community going forward.”

Following the close of the transaction, PIR will continue to meet the highest standards of public transparency, accountability, and social performance in line with its longstanding purpose-driven mission, and will consider seeking B Corporation certification. All of PIR’s domain operations and educational initiatives will continue, and there will be no disruption of service or support to the .ORG Community or other generic top-level domains operated by the organization.

“We are excited to support PIR’s mission and build upon the incredible work it has done to promote success and positive impact for the .ORG Community,” said Erik Brooks, Founder & CEO of Ethos Capital. “As part of our commitment to setting the gold standard of registry operations, we will be establishing a Stewardship Council that will serve to uphold PIR’s core founding values and provide support through a variety of community programs.”

Mr. Brooks added: “Importantly, throughout the transition and beyond, we are committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations and enhancing the relationships PIR has established over the years. We look forward to continuing PIR’s longstanding partnerships and vendor affiliations to ensure domain operations run smoothly and without interruption.”

Vint Cerf, former Chairman of the Board of ICANN and founding President of the Internet Society, said: “When the Internet Society won the bid to operate the .ORG registry, it enabled a productive and sustainable future for the organization. Public Interest Registry exercised its stewardship to the benefit of the registrants and the Internet Society’s mission. I am looking forward to supporting Ethos Capital and PIR in any way I can as they continue to expand the utility of the .ORG top-level domain in creative and socially responsible ways.”

PIR was established by the Internet Society in 2002 to manage and operate the .ORG domain. Since then, .ORG has risen to become the largest purpose-driven domain used by millions of organizations and others to achieve their online goals.

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC is serving as financial advisor to both the Internet Society and PIR. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Proskauer Rose LLP are serving as legal advisors to the Internet Society and PIR, respectively. Macquarie Capital is serving as financial advisor and Morrison & Foerster LLP is serving as legal advisor to Ethos Capital.

About Public Interest Registry

Public Interest Registry (PIR) is a nonprofit corporation that operates the .ORG top-level domain—one of the world’s largest generic top-level domains with more than 10 million domain names registered worldwide. As an advocate for collaboration, safety, and security on the Internet, PIR’s mission is to serve as an exemplary registry and to provide a trusted digital identity. PIR strives to educate the global community to use the Internet more safely and effectively while taking a leadership position among Internet stakeholders on policy and other issues relating to the domain naming system. PIR was founded by the Internet Society (https://www.internetsociety.org) in 2002 and is based in Reston, Virginia, USA. Visit Public Interest Registry at https://pir.org.

About .ORG

.ORG is the original purpose-driven “generic” top-level domain (gTLD) with more than 10 million domain names registered worldwide. .ORG is open to everyone, providing a global platform for organizations, associations, clubs, businesses and individuals to bring their ideas to life. For more than 30 years, .ORG has built an enduring legacy of trust, preserving an open and secure Internet where diverse communities can establish a trusted online identity and freely share ideas. Visit www.TheNew.org for more information.

About the Internet Society

Founded by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society (ISOC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet. Working through a global community of chapters and members, the Internet Society collaborates with a broad range of groups to promote technologies that keep the Internet safe and secure, and to advocate for policies and infrastructure that enable universal access. The Internet Society also provides a corporate home for the administrative entity that supports the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). For additional information, visit https://www.internetsociety.org/.

About Ethos Capital

Ethos Capital is a specialized investment firm that helps transform and grow established companies in today’s rapidly evolving digital economy. Ethos Capital’s Founder and CEO, Erik Brooks, has deep expertise and relationships across the business, technical, and social communities that protect and promote the Internet’s core founding values. As a mission-driven firm, Ethos Capital is committed to setting the gold standard of ethics and social responsibility for registry operations and supporting a globally connected and resilient Internet. For more information, please visit https://ethoscapital.com/.

6 COMMENTS

  1. How amazingly brazen and appalling.

    And how remarkably in the “public interest” (not, of course).

    Perhaps in time it will be possible to “follow the money” in case there are any bribes and kickbacks or other present or future favors involved with ICANN personnel.

  2. Total BS.

    They get their unlimited price caps despite a groundswell of opposition, which was ignored.
    PIR says they have no plans to raise prices, then immediately sellout.

    This is so brazen.

    Explain to me how this is in the public interest?
    ICANN and PIR are both jokes at this point. Pathetic.

    Brad

    • Ethos Capital was incorporated in Delaware 2 weeks after the public comment period closed.

      And then there’s this:

      “Previously, Ms. Abusitta-Ouri has held a variety of positions at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), including Senior Vice President, Development and Public Responsibility and Director of Engagement, International and Inter-Governmental Organizations.“

  3. Just shows you it’s not just the new G TLDs that need to be watched. There’s risk everywhere.
    I’m not sure how much this news is affecting domainers, does anyone even invest in .orgs anymore?

    It does however shake the foundation of the legacy TLDs a little. Uncertainty in legacy may up benefiting the new Gs. What’s next? .com get’s sold to/managed by Donuts?

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