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One of the World's Great Domain Portfolios is On the Market - Why Skip Hoagland Decided It's Time to Sell

By Ron Jackson

While the domain investment business is a relatively new one (having started roughly 25 years ago) it has finally gotten old enough for us to start seeing some of the industry's pioneers take steps toward retirement. That has resulted in some great domains and even entire portfolios being put up for sale.

At this point it is still more common to see "semi" retirement - like that of Domain King Rick Schwartz who has kept a lower public profile since staging the final T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference with co-founder Howard Neu in 2014. However, while Rick has stopped to smell the roses he continues to buy and sell domains and has posted multiple six and seven figure sales since stepping away from the spotlight. 

Image from Bigstock

In other cases we've seen trailblazers like Michael Berkens, who sold most of his vast MostWantedDomains portfolio to GoDaddy in 2015, let go of most of their holdings when the right buyer came along. However, Michael, like Rick, continues to play the game - just at a less intensive level that leaves him time to enjoy life (as I write this, Michael and his wife Judi are in the middle of a five-week anniversary celebration in Italy).

Skip Hoagland 

What we haven't seen a lot of is someone with a world class portfolio built over multiple decades decide to sell it all - lock, stock and barrel - and ride off into the sunset in the way we traditionally think of "retirement." Skip Hoagland - a giant in the geodomain space who we profiled in a July 2008 Cover Story - recently made the decision to do just that and has already taken the first major step - turning the portfolio over to his family in the course of estate planning and now assisting in finding a buyer.

Hoagland is looking for an offer in the $20 million range - obviously a sizeable chuck of change but the Hoagland family is willing to self finance it for 15-20 years at 3% and would consider other terms as well. Now, those who don't know Skip and the names in the extraordinary portfolio he assembled over the years are no doubt wondering "what does he have that is worth that kind of money!?" For starters, there are the monster geo domains like Cuba.com, Atlanta.com, Baltimore.com, Charleston.com and Buenos Aires.com (to name just a few) and there are also top tier 

generic domains like Fishing.com and ChamberOfCommerce.com (the latter domain is currently producing over $800,000 in gross annual revenue). You can see the complete list here (Word document). It is hundreds of domains rather than thousands - but is a prime example of quality over quantity.

Skip told us, "I had about 3,000-4,000 names at one time - lots of .orgs, .nets etc that I just dropped. I now have about 600.  I have had several appraisals ranging from $20-$35 million as undeveloped property and many tell me fully developed a billion. The billion would have been nice, but I simply ran out of time and I wish the buyers and end users who buy these all the best."

"I think my greatest contribution is the fact I want to empower entrepreneurs who have talent to be successful, and in the world we live in, few have cash and few can go to a bank to borrow money. This is why I decided to offer 15-20 year seller financing at 3% interest for all buyers to help them move forward," Hoagland said.  "I believe this is something the brokerage industry has to do to grow. To just sell for cash is not good and limits the chances for many good smart people/developers to succeed. It is also good to offer lease to own and  managing partnerships, I have some of all of these."

Image from Bigstock

Hoagland will consider offers on individual names and with so many "dream" domains in his portfolio you might wonder - especially for someone who is still as active and fit as Skip is - why not keep a few favorites rather than sell them all? Hoagland answered, "Well to begin, many decisions led to this stage and then my wife of 38 years, Cathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and this put me into reality, but happy to say she's a survivor. Also realizing if you are not willing to work 16 hours per day versus just 8 hours, you will never compete against those who do, so better to retire and focus on my wife, family and hobbies," Hoagland said.

Skip & Cathy Hoagland at the 2010 GeoDomain Expo in New Orleans.

Hoagland added, "I am however focused on giving back to my community and the Geo domain media industry and have decided to get involved in some local and state politics, making speeches, and being a harsh critic of corruption and crooks on Hilton Head, South Carolina and in our state. The movie Spotlight inspired me and since I have no risk of losing a job, and no fear, I decided to try and make a small difference. You can Google my name to see my lawsuits against Chambers of Commerce, CVB's (convention and visitors bureaus) and city DMO's (designated marketing organization) and even Town governments. My simple claims are many of these 501-c6 Chamber and CVB non-profits are corrupt, crooked, misusing tax dollars, committing theft, violations to IRS Ubit taxes, and unfairly compete against local media and many Geo domain owners."

To understand Hoagland's passion for his cause you have to understand it comes from a lifetime of working in the local media business - starting with print and eventually leading him to the Internet (and domain names) as more and more publishing enterprises moved online to survive. It all started when he was in his 20s and moved to Hilton Head Island. Soon after arriving in the popular tourist destination Hoagland saw an opportunity to make money by providing information about the area by printing and distributing brochures devoted to local attractions. "I came up with this idea to create a brochure rack for hotels to clean up all of the clutter and put all of this information in one convenient location," Hoagland recalled in our 2008 profile of him. "We got the hotels to sign contracts that gave us the exclusive right to place these racks in their

Skip Hoagland speaking at the 
2008 GeoDomain Expo in Chicago

lobbies. So anyone who wanted to have their brochure available in the hotel lobbies had to come  through our company. It was a big success and that's where it all began for me."

Hoagland soon expanded into publishing local tourist and city magazines in a territory stretching from Hilton Head down through Charleston and Savannah, Georgia. In 1996 he started buying the corresponding domain names (including Charleston.com and Savannah.com) after a young friend told him he needed to "watch out for the new Internet because it could end up hurting his information distribution business" and another "kid" suggested he protect his interests by buying .com domain names representing the cities he operated in. Hoagland took their advice to heart and it wound up being the best move he ever made

Unlike many who sat on domains with hopes of reselling them, Hoagland, often in partnership arrangements, developed most of his into real businesses. That's when he found out that some of the organizations that were supposed to help local businesses like his, were actually competing with them. He has been trying to put a stop to it ever since. "I have accused many 

that are not run properly under their purpose and intent as frauds and tax scams," Hoagland noted. "I have even accused the US chamber President Tom Donahue, ACCE (American Chamber of Commerce executives) President Mick Fleming and DMAI (destination marketing association) President Don Welsh, of all supporting fraud by recognizing their members who commit crimes as credible."

"Government and non-profits should not be in any business, their job is to support and help those who are and pay taxes for military, roads, schools, police, fire, etc. It seems there are more and more cases nationwide of these organizations being forced to submit to forensic audits and once they are and their hired audits are independently audited, massive wrongdoings are discovered including theft, credit card misuse, fraud, embezzlement and even prison in the case of Palm Beach CVB. The Berkeley, SC Chamber is first case in South Carolina and is currently under FBI investigation. You can read about it online," Hoagland said.

Image from Bigstock

Skip and Cathy Hoagland plan to spend 
more time at their family ranch in Argentina.

"This type of fight will result in a few bloody noses, but is worth it. Again, anyone interested can read all about it online by Googling "Skip Hoagland". With my name I can't hide like Joe Smith! All this is part time and in between my fishing and bird hunting at the family ranch in Argentina. Also at 70 years old you come to realize that you aren't taking anything with you and you are only as good at what you've left behind."

When Hoagland fully exits the domain business he will take a lot of knowledge with him - including things he has learned in his own businesses as well as advice from fellow investor/developers. He cited these observations (highlighted in green) made by veteran domain investor Alan Dunn in a Business Insider article as the best reasons for making a great domain name the foundation you build your business on: 

How much is a domain name worth?

"Realistically a domain name can be worth any amount  

but most domain names sell for around $5,000 to $20,000. Premium domains, category killers and short domains however can easily command $100,000 or millions depending on a wide number of reasons. But letís not talk about the value of individual domains per se but how a domain name compares to the cost and value of traditional media. Letís put a $10,000 domain in perspective to traditional media."

Billboard Advertising

"Billboard Advertising is some of the most expensive advertising around. In New York City, for example, a rotary bulletin can cost you anywhere from $35,000 to over $600,000 a WEEK according to Clear Channelís online rate card."

Mobile Advertising

"You know that advertising billboard which is essentially carried around on the back of a truck and drives around all day? $20,000 a month if you want to advertise in the Atlanta Market (although fuel cost is included)."

Radio Advertising

"Even radio ads can cost around $200 average per spot and you need at least a handful a day to make any dent in attracting business...total monthly estimated cost $30,000 or more.

Image from Bigstock

"Now the question is what do you own after the 30 day period for the traditional media sources above? Nothing! If you spend $10,000 on a domain name your only future expenses are the $8 a year in registration fees - not even $8 a month Ö actually less than $1 a month."

"Of course there are other expenses such as building a website and SEO but all of these expenses are costs which go directly to building value to something you own Ė not airtime or billboard space you are leasing!"

"There are also intangible factors like authority which category defining domain names have that traditional media can never compare to. So, the real question is not how much a domain name costs but how much value the right domain name can bring to your business."

When asked to take a final look back at the domain portion of your career and comment on what he enjoyed most about it Hoagland concluded, "All of the people involved and watching the technology evolve and learning about the best methods used and proven in the Geo domain destination marketing for profit business.  All I can say is it is amazing what can happen with focus, passion and 16 hour days, a good wife, trusted lawyers, good accountants, trusted partners and investors and lots of luck!"

*****


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