Dread Pirate Roberts, the owner of notorious black market drug marketplace, the Silk Road, has said that he wouldn’t sell his website for “less than 10 figures, maybe 11.”
Launched in 2011, The Silk Road has been described as the ‘eBay of illegal drugs’ and sells a range of products from marijuana to heroin. It offers anonymity to its customers through its use of the encrypted Tor browser and the digital currency BitCoin.
The secretive and illegal nature of the site means assessing its finances is difficult, though recent estimates suggest annual revenue of between $30 and $45 million. Roberts receives a minimum commission of 10 per cent on all sales, scaling up for larger transactions.
“As far as my monetary net worth is concerned, the future value of Silk Road as an organization dwarfs its and my liquid assets,” said Roberts in an interview with Forbes.
The name ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ refers to the hero The Princess Bride, a novel that was adapted into a cult 1987 film of the same name. In the story ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ is an inherited title rather than the name of an individual; Roberts says he chose the title after buying the site from its founder. “Thus, no matter what happens to the individual the office continues to live on,” says Roberts.
The rare interview also highlighted Roberts’ political beliefs, with The Silk Road described as “vehicle” for a message of radical libertarianism. “What we’re doing isn’t about scoring drugs or ‘sticking it to the man,’” Roberts told Forbes. “It’s about standing up for our rights as human beings and refusing to submit when we’ve done no wrong.”
Although The Silk Road is certainly the most well-known example of its kind its continuing success has encouraged and emboldened competitors. A rival website named Atlantis that launched in June even had its own advertising campaign, including an animated video posted to YouTube and an online Q&A with the company ‘CEO’.
However, such websites are far from invulnerable: in 2012 eight individuals were arrested by US law agencies for operating a similar site known as The Farmer’s Market.