Tracking Down a Domain Owner | DomainInvesting.com
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Tracking Down a Domain Owner

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One of the most exciting aspects of being a domain investor is being able to track down a domain name’s owner. It’s one thing to email an offer to the Whois contact and then negotiate to buy a domain name. It’s a completely different feeling when I have to do some research on the domain owner when the email bounces and phone number doesn’t work. It’s almost more of a satisfying feeling that is tough to describe, but anyone who has gone the extra few miles to get a domain name knows how rewarding it is.

For this article, I am going to document how I am going to try to track down the owner of FarmersMarkets.com, a domain name I want to purchase. As I write this, I have no idea how the situation will turn out, but even if it doesn’t result in an acquisition, I can share some of the techniques I use. As you read this, keep in mind I am writing as I am working, so tense may be off a bit (sorry, grammar police).

FarmersMarkets.com is a domain name that doesn’t resolve. In 2008 and 2009, I sent 2 offers for the name, one of which was $5,000, and I didn’t get a reply (or a bounced email). I recently tried to call the Whois contact, but the phone number didn’t work.

I Googled the owner’s name (Mary Van Maren) in quotes and added the word “Whois” after the name.  There were just a few results, but I learned the owner also owns EmergencyAlert.com, WebmasterWeek.com, and NaturalOrganics.com. This is important because I like the first and last names, so if necessary, I can add those as part of the negotiation to get a better price.

When I did this search, I also found a big clue. There was an article in the Stanford Graduate School of Business online magazine about Mary and her husband’s cigar company, as well as her recent work history.  This tells me several things. 1) She went to Stanford, and it’s likely she doesn’t need to sell the domain to raise capital. 2) She owns a business that is unrelated to farmer’s markets. 3) Her company is called Cigar Locker, so I can probably call the business to get in touch. 4) The article was written in 1998, so much has probably changed.

I visited the Cigar Locker website, which was listed in the Stanford article. Unfortunately, this led to a dead end, as the website does not resolve for me. I did a Whois search of CigarLocker.com, and I found the domain name is registered to Mary’s husband (Kevin Foley) – or at least her husband when the article was written in 1998. This Whois listing has a different phone number. Phone number was disconnected when I called.

Since the Whois page had a website screenshot archived on it, I am going to visit Archive.org to see if I can get another phone number for the business from there. Perhaps the site is down, but the business is still operational, and the business line is different from the Whois contact info. I found an archived page from July 0f 2007, but unfortunately the phone number is the same. The copyright date in the footer is from 2004 – so it doesn’t look like that was updated much.

I did find one other clue on the archived website’s home page. I called the toll free number below the local number, and it was an answering machine for GiftBasket.com. Although the Whois information is private for GiftBasket.com, I did find that the Whois History showed that the husband of the owner of FarmersMarkets.com is/was the owner of GiftBasket.com as recently as January 2, 2010. The phone number is also different from the others, although I suspect it will call GiftBasket.com.  It’s worth a try anyway…  no dice.

Now I am going to try WhitePages.com, where I will search for the owner of FarmersMarkets.com and her husband to see if I can find a phone number.  The one thing I need to remember is that the addresses have been in California, and since I am in New York, I need to keep the 3 hour time difference in mind when I call. No dice when searching for her, but I did find a number for the husband, which is different than the other phone numbers. I tried several times, but the number is always busy.

I did another Google search for Mary with the city of Granite Bay listed. I found an interesting article about how she plans to start a VC fund and is hoping for $50 million in funding. Apparently, “she is very well connected.”  With this said, it’s really looking doubtful that my offer will mean enough to her to get her to sell. However, the article was written in 2000, so who knows what happened. I also found her ZoomInfo page, and the domain name for one of her companies, iConvention.com, is now owned by Name Administration… another dead end.

I did another Google search for the husband’s name and Granite Bay, CA to see what I could find. I found that he has another domain name, ChristmasShops.com. These people seem to understand how valuable generic domain names are.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to get in touch with the owner of FarmersMarkets.com.  I will keep trying to see what else I can find, but it doesn’t seem likely that I will be able to buy this domain name or make an offer. Of course, if I needed this domain name, I could always try to visit their home, but I think that can be a bit shady. A UPS/FedEx package with a certified offer might be worth trying.

What are some of the things you do to track down a domain owner to buy a domain name?

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenjohnbryde/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (22)

    makes_sense

    Great and helpful post..

    Amazing when I find someone with a premium name that has bunk contact info or even funnier, not even a landing page..have seen this on 25k – 100k level names.

    Good luck with the offer..could be a great project!

    February 3rd, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    WQ

    I’ve emailed offers for that domain last year, they all bounced.

    I wanted to create a directory type site for all farmers markets which I feel really need to be supported.

    I lost interest though…hope you have luck contacting them.

    I would send a letter….

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Tatjana

    Best of the luck to find the contact info and get domain you want. I will come back to see how did you get hold of the domain owner.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    mrx

    You mention farmersmarket.com five times in your article, but the correct spelling is farmersmarket(s).com.

    I wonder if the .com is worth 5k since type-in traffic would be nill. In this case, another extension might work well for develpment.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Kellie

    Elliot, it’s resolving for me. When’s the last time you took a snoop? Oh, wait – looks like you’re referring to FarmersMarkets.com (plural)?

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Elliot

    @ mrx

    Sorry, I wrote the article as I was doing things, so there may be typos. The name I am after IS FarmersMarkets.com.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Elliot

    I just updated the article to reflect the actual name I’d like to buy :)

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    WQ

    Even I made the typo in my above post…its the plural I wanted too.

    I guess the singular proves itself to be better…

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Suneedh

    I believe they run a winery now – ” Gold Note Wine”.

    http://www.goldnotewine.com/contact.htm

    Got this information from :

    http://www.stanfordalumni.org/learningtravel/sierra/memorialday/home.html

    Well, you could try asking any friend of yours who lives in CA or nearby to pay visit to the address mentioned in the whois records. Although, there is a good chance that they may have moved.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Russ

    You’re ignoring the tech contact! When you can’t reach the registrant, you should try all the contacts.

    Psyber.com appears to be the hosting company for the domain, it lists a PO Box, so odds are its one guy or maybe one guy and his buddy running it, and the phone on the site matches what’s in the whois.

    Small isps/hosts are more likely to know their customers and possibly get your offer in front of the right person.

    Try it.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      Elliot

      @ Russ

      Good suggestion, and one that leads to a number of their other domain names. Phone number isn’t working, but email didn’t bounce.

      February 3rd, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Michael Bilde

    I’ve found a few domain owners, whose Whois contact data did not work, on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, most of the time they are not willing to sell.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Borat

    My couzin is mercanary expert at the tracker. He has kiled 200 militiary in my country. He is paid american dollars to find domain owner and waterboard toruture of domain password.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Jason Matthews

    Nice post Elliot. Very interesting subject with some helpful tips. Best of luck getting in contact with the owner and hopefully getting the name.

    February 3rd, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Ms Domainer

    *

    Good info. I have learned a lot about “sleuthing” from your blog.

    The singular Farmer’s Market does refer to THE famous market in L.A.

    http://www.farmersmarketla.com/

    As you can see, they don’t own its generic name (or if they do, it’s Proxy).

    As a kid (an eon ago), I LOVED going to Farmer’s Market. They had an awesome bakery (where you could watch cake decorators create works of art with icing).

    My favorite was a Magic shop that sold cool stuff like fake vomit, whoopee cushions, and big rubber spiders (and, yes, back then, I also liked The Three Stooges).

    😉

    I wish you well in your quest for the plural, and I’ll be keeping my eye on your progress.

    *

    February 4th, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Marg

    Interesting post, and I’ve also searched along similar lines myself. However, isn’t a domain owner obliged to keep all Whois contact info current and correct? Wasn’t GoDaddy involved in selling the domain FamilyAlbum.com out from under the original registrant because another GD customer complained that the registrant Whois info wasn’t correct?

    February 4th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Mrx

    @Marg Yes.. fortunately most regsitrars are not as corrupt as Godaddy.

    February 4th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Andrew Rosener

    I’m working on launching a similar project which will incorporate farmer’s markets and local purveyors.

    The site will be: SustainableChef.com (or EatSustainable.com) – haven’t entirely made up my mind yet.

    Anyhow, prior to choosing those names I acquired many other similar names if you’re interested in these types of names or have a specific project in mind.

    Let me know.

    February 4th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Elliot

    @ Andrew

    Thanks, but no interest in the vertical other than for this category defining .com.

    February 4th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Louise

    Hi, A research challenge gets its hooks into me! Look what comes up:

    Blowing Smoke, cowritten by Kevin and Mary Foley in 1997

    Gold Note Wine
    http://www.goldnotewine.com (privacy on WhosIs)

    Foley Estate Winery

    Kevin and Mary Foley attended the Agricultural Meeting in 2007

    http://www.foleywines.com

    It must be why Mary & Kevin Foley keep a low profile, because Kevin must be the son of William Foley II, the owner of the big wine estate in Santa Barbara!

    February 4th, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    LS Morgan

    Based on the context clues here, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’re dealing with what what appears to be a multi-millionaire Ivy League graduate” Yeah… She isn’t exactly going to be ‘clueless’ about the names she owns and the likelihood that she sells them for anything resembling a ‘bargain price’ by domainer standards is probably next to nill…

    It doesn’t hurt to try, unless you’re banging your head into a brick wall. In that case, it does hurt to try.

    February 5th, 2010 at 1:25 am

    Rob

    There’s one person with a name that matches the domain owner on Facebook. As it’s quite an unusual name, it would probably be worth sending them a message to see if it’s them?

    February 7th, 2010 at 10:59 am

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