Keeping track of the merger and acquisitions over the last while is proving to be headache inducing. A lot of the players have switched around and the number of transactions does not show any sign of slowing down.
The latest announcement is that Ethos Capital, the rather secretive investment company, is now the majority shareholder of Donuts. Ethos had previously tried to acquire the .org registry, but the transaction was blocked by ICANN. This time round the transaction might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s unlikely that ICANN will be able to do anything about it, based on past experience, even if some parties would love to see them get entangled. During the public forum at the most recent ICANN meeting EFF and others raised concerns about ICANN’s silence in relation to the acquisition of Afilias by Donuts.
Ethos Capita, whose executive team includes people previously involved with Abry Partners (and ICANN), have bought out Abry’s interest in Donuts.
Ethos’ website is “minimal”.
Oddly you’ll find out more about Ethos’ funding from the press release about the Donuts transaction than you will from their site.
Here’s the official announcement of the transaction:
Ethos Capital, LLC (“Ethos Capital”), a private equity firm that invests in middle-market companies, announced today that it has completed an investment to acquire a controlling interest of Donuts Inc. (“Donuts”) from Abry Partners. Based in Seattle, WA, Donuts holds the world’s largest portfolio of top-level domains (“TLDs”) and offers individuals and organizations new ways to promote and enhance their true digital identities.
“We appreciate that Donuts helps businesses establish and promote their digital identities, while also maintaining data security. Through our focus on operational excellence and responsible strategies, Ethos Capital will support Donuts as it continues to serve its customers’ business needs.”
Ethos Capital’s Co-CEOs, Erik Brooks and Fadi Chehadé, have deep experience in the digital infrastructure sector and have owned and worked with companies in the domain industry for years. Ethos Capital’s initial investment in Donuts in 2020 facilitated the acquisition of Afilias, Inc. a leading TLD registry operator and provider. The Ethos Capital investment group, which includes strategic partner The Baupost Group, funds managed by Neuberger Berman and others, now controls the Donuts Board of Directors and will provide a strong shareholder base to support the company’s future growth.
“With extensive operational expertise and significant experience in domain name and related industries, Ethos Capital is the perfect partner to support our mission of reliability, security, and stability, as well as position us for continued success. We look forward to working with the Ethos Capital team and leveraging their expertise as we enter this next phase of growth,” said Akram Atallah, CEO of Donuts.
“Akram and the rest of the Donuts team have built an industry-leading domain company and demonstrated consistent organic growth through multiple market cycles. We are thrilled to partner with the team and look forward to applying our unique value proposition to their existing platforms,” Brooks said.
Chehadé added, “We appreciate that Donuts helps businesses establish and promote their digital identities, while also maintaining data security. Through our focus on operational excellence and responsible strategies, Ethos Capital will support Donuts as it continues to serve its customers’ business needs.”
Ethos Capital was founded on the principle that operating expertise is mission critical to making sound investment decisions and adding value to portfolio companies. Ethos Capital’s Executive Partners bring disciplined investment and management experience to the businesses with whom they partner.
Morrison & Foerster LLP served as legal counsel to Ethos Capital. Donuts was advised by Kirkland & Ellis LLP. There were no investment bankers involved in the transaction.
About Ethos Capital, LLC
Ethos Capital was established to make majority and control minority investments in middle-market companies primarily across North America and Europe. The organization, led by Erik Brooks and Fadi Chehadé, provides operational expertise to businesses through a dedicated team of Executive Partners. Unlike other private equity firms, Ethos Capital’s strategy is to add value through accelerating growth within companies, by partnering with existing management teams to strategically build and enhance operations.
Ethos Capital is actively seeking new investment opportunities with companies that understand the importance of stakeholder capitalism and appreciate the impact of implementing responsible strategies. For more information, please visit www.ethoscapital.com.
About The Baupost Group
The Baupost Group is a Boston-based investment manager with a long-term, value-oriented approach. Since 1982, the firm has been thoughtfully stewarding and compounding capital on behalf of families, foundations and endowments, as well as employees who collectively are the firm’s largest client. Baupost manages roughly $28 billion with a broad and flexible charter, investing in a wide range of asset classes including private equity, and significant holdings in publicly traded debt and equity securities, private debt, and real estate. CEO and Portfolio Manager Seth Klarman has overseen Baupost’s investments from the company’s inception.
About Neuberger Berman
Neuberger Berman, founded in 1939, is a private, independent, employee-owned investment manager. The firm manages a range of strategies—including equity, fixed income, quantitative and multi-asset class, private equity, real estate and hedge funds—on behalf of institutions, advisors and individual investors globally. With offices in 24 countries, Neuberger Berman’s diverse team has over 2,300 professionals. For seven consecutive years, the company has been named first or second in Pensions & Investments Best Places to Work in Money Management survey (among those with 1,000 employees or more). In 2020, the PRI named Neuberger Berman a Leader, a designation awarded to fewer than 1% of investment firms for excellence in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. The PRI also awarded Neuberger Berman an A+ in every eligible category for our approach to ESG integration across asset classes. The firm manages $405 billion in client assets as of December 31, 2020. For more information, please visit www.nb.com.
About Donuts Inc.
Donuts simplifies and connects the online world with domain names and related technologies that allow people to build, market and own their digital identities. Donuts holds the world’s largest portfolio of top-level domains, branded TrueName Domains, and operates more than a hundred and fifty others for registry partners on its innovative registry services platform. Together, Donuts operates nearly 25 million domain names under management. Beyond its domain name registry and innovative registry services platform, Donuts enables customers to discover, register, support, and use high-quality domain names with its registrar, Name.com. Donuts is a global company with approximately 300 employees. It is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington with international offices across four continents. For more information, please visit www.donuts.domains.