Fourteen years ago, Chris Clark shelled out 20 bucks to register the domain name “pizza.com.” Tomorrow afternoon, he’s selling it to the highest bidder for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million.
“It’s crazy; it’s just crazy,” he said somewhat giddily this morning from his home in North Potomac. By then, a week’s worth of anonymous bidding at an online auction site had already pushed the price to $2.6 million. The auction closes at 2 p.m. today.
“That amount of money is significant,” said 43-year-old Clark, who recently launched a software company. “It will make a significant difference in my life, for sure.”
With more than 150 million domain names already registered, coming up with unused — and uncomplicated —Web addresses is nearly impossible. That’s led to an active secondary sales market, where domain owners try reselling their Web names to big corporate spenders.
Clark bought the name in 1994, when the Web was just beginning to commercialize, though he had no idea what a winning lottery ticket it would become. Back then, he had launched an Internet consulting firm and thought the domain would help him score a contract with a pizza company. But no contract ever came through, and he sold the business in 2000. Clark’s latest venture, Minestream Software Corp, provides Internet protection products.
He kept up the annual $20 registration fees on the pizza.com name, though, and basically sat on the site, selling advertising space here and there. About a year ago, he and a friend turned it into a profitable pizza directory and advertising site that earns more than the $5,000 it costs to maintain.
In January, he posted a notice on the site saying the domain was for sale and inviting would-be buyers to weigh in. After receiving six-figure offers through e-mail, Clark said he approached Sedo, the international online auctioneer that handled the Vodka.com sale.
The first pizza bid was for $100 on March 27th. The price was up to a half-million dollars the following morning. By the 29th, the bidding hit $2 million, and Clark was officially locked into the sale. That was his minimum price.
By tomorrow afternoon, the deal should be sealed. It will take a few days to complete the transaction, transfer the domain and get Clark his windfall.
He doesn’t have any immediate plans for the money, he said. But he does have a regret: not buying more domains.
“In ’94, you could have just registered everything and anything,” Clark said. “I think about that now, yeah.”