Web real estate, that is. Hundreds of Web domains featuring the names of well-known CEOs and other celebrities have been bought by entrepreneurs and Christian fund-raisers. But rather than trying to sell the Web addresses to their namesakes to turn a quick profit, these domain owners are hoping to use their holdings for charitable donations or, in one case, to lure chief executives to the bargaining table.
First and foremost, however, these self-described benevolent owners claim to be protecting the people whose names they've registered.
"I just got it on his behalf," said Dave Davidson, owner of JimBarksdale.com, dubbed for the CEO of Netscape Communications. "Whenever he's ready for it, to protect him, I would offer it to him. You know how celebrities can have something on their name that doesn't put them in the best light--like Whitehouse.com," which offers pornography.
JimBarksdale.com is not Davidson's only CEO domain. He's also the owner of GeorgeBell.com (CEO of Excite), BobPittman.com (AOL), JasonOlim.com (CdNow), TobyLenk.com (eToys.com), JeffreyKatzenberg.com (Dreamworks), TimothyKoogle.com (Yahoo), ScottKurnit.com (MiningCo.com), and hundreds more.
Davidson's business partner, fellow Iowan Mike Cunningham, owns HalseyMinor.com (chief executive of CNET: The Computer Network, publisher of News.com). Between the two of them, they own several hundred CEO domains, Davidson said.
In addition to preserving his domains from the fate of serving up pornography or other unsavory Web offerings, Davidson does have a business motivation. Although he insists that he would never try to pry money out of a CEO in exchange for his or her name, the domains may prove useful in establishing business relationships with them.
"Let's say I had an idea for a great Internet company," Davidson said. "Instead of sending [an executive] a fruit basket, if I offered him his name, if he'd just listen to my idea, that would be a way of doing him a favor. It's not to blackmail them but to say, 'Hey, here's my idea, here's your name, and you should have it.' I'm pretty confident I can gain some friends."
Davidson's several hundred virtual fruit baskets may come in handy as he and Cunningham rev up their Internet venture. Also focused on domain acquisitions, the plan involves linking dozens of ".com" content sites that share the prefix "daily."
Among the domains of this sort that Davidson and Cunningham, along with Dave Davidson's brother Dan Davidson, have accumulated under their ThinkWow business are "dailypiano.com," "dailykids.com," and "dailyshoes.com."
The Davidson brothers have collaborated on 14 books of inspirational writing, according to their Web site, including The Fragrance Of Christmas, A Cup Of Devotion With God (about "coffee lovers and reflections of friendship and faith"), and You're A Super Yada, Yada, Yada Fan If...
ThinkWow is part of the brothers' trademarked mantra, "Think Wow/Make A Vow/Plan How/Do It Now/Push The Plow."
As for his CEO domains, Davidson cites as one of his inspirations a Kansas-based Christian group called Friend To Friend, which claims to gather celebrity domains and give them to the celebrities named. Friend To Friend claims to have helped out celebrities Larry Hagman, Kelsey Grammer, Frankie Avalon, Bo Derek, and Art Garfunkel.
But according to the administrative contact for the BoDerek.com domain, the '80s icon had to write a check to retrieve the address.
"They wanted a $700 donation," recalled Lars Wickstrom of Santa Inez-based Photo Heck, a photography laboratory with celebrity connections. "We told Bo about it, and I don't know how much she sent them. They said it was a donation. I think we settled for less than what they wanted. Now we're going through the same thing with them for Cheryl Ladd and Ursula Andress."
Friend To Friend could not be reached for comment.
Other high-profile tech CEOs have third parties sitting on their ".com" domains, including Bill Gates (Microsoft), Craig Barrett (Intel), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Steve Jobs (acting CEO of Apple).
One CEO domain is unlikely to wind up in the hands of either ThinkWow or Friend To Friend, however. KimPolese.com (Marimba) is the property of Marimba.