Sex sells – but sex.com isn't worth $14m, owner of domain name finds

Latest twist in saga of web's costliest address as owner is forced to sell

The rights to one of the most notorious adult sites on the internet are up for sale just four years after they changed hands for a record $14m (£9m), with auctioneers hoping that sex can sell all over again.

Sex.com, the most expensive domain name on the internet and the subject of two books, is set to go under the hammer after its owner Escom was unable to pay its debts. The domain name of the site, which has been described as the "jewel in the internet's crown", is to go under the hammer on 18 March.

Details of the process were posted on the website of auctioneer David R Maltz & Co about a week ago, which has since received a slew of enquiries. The event will be held at law firm Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf in New York. The domain name will not come cheap. Interested parties will have to bring a certified cheque for $1m just to be allowed to participate. However, a source close to the sale said the site was "unlikely to bring in what it did in 2006, although it really depends on how much someone wants it".

The forced sale came after Escom defaulted on its debts to Dom Partners, according to the notice of foreclosure sale posted by Dom's lawyers. It marks the latest in a series of twists in the site's extraordinary 16-year history. The tale spawned Sex.com: One Domain, Two Men, Twelve Years and the Brutal Battle for the Jewel in the Internet's Crown by journalist Kieren McCarthy in 2007, and The Sex.com Chronicles: A White-Hat Lawyer's Journey to the Dark Side of the Internet by Charles Carreon the following year.

For the first five years, Sex.com had five million hits a day and generated $100m a year. It was, as McCarthy said, the "most valuable piece of virtual real-estate on the planet".

The domain name was registered in 1994 by Gary Kremen, a scholar from Stanford University and the founder of dating site Match.com. Two years later, through an elaborate scam, the ownership was transferred to Stephen Cohen, who was described by McCarthy as "an uneducated con man with a genius IQ and an unnatural gift for persuasion".

A bitter court battle followed, and was still dragging on a decade later. The case was to prove a landmark in how the law views internet domain name ownership. A Californian judge awarded $65m in damages to Mr Kremen and returned him the rights to Sex.com, but the lawsuits continued and Cohen eventually fled the country. He was later jailed after Mexican authorities handed him over at the border.

Mr Kremen put the site on the market in 2006, and according to reports at the time, Escom paid $14m for the rights. Domain Capital, which partly financed the acquisition, said at the time: "It is believed to be among the most significant domain sale transactions in history." The new owners of Sex.com said they planned to revolutionise the online adult industry, and set about signing numerous content deals including a distribution agreement with Playboy. Mr Kremen, who was kept on as an adviser after the deal, said he was "excited to see how the revolutionary new business plan evolves". Sadly for the site's owners, they were to discover that sex does not always sell enough.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

    £100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

    C# Developer

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: My client is lo...

    SAP FICO CONSULTANT - LONDON

    £55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SENIOR SAP FICO...

    SAP BI/BO CONSULTANT

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn