Tracking Down a Domain Owner
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?
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