A major brand wants to buy my site and domain but what to value it at?

by thetgc
17 replies
Hi all. New to the forum so I am not entirely sure I am posting in the right section.

So briefly I need some advice about a website and forum that I have owned and run for the past 20 years.

It start out as a fan site for a large multi-national brand and then morphed into a site that also covers other brands too. Although at least 80% of content is still very much focused on the brand which was the main theme of the site.

The domain name also incorporates the brand but they have been aware of this from the start and the only stipulation was that I made it clear that the site is independent, which I do.

I have also been to the brand's HQ on many occasions and had discussions on how they can help with the site etc. They have also on occasion provided products for review and I have attended product launches etc. So none of this was done without the brand's knowledge and permission.

The site currently gets around 400,000 visits per month so it has become quite popular and we always rank well in Google.

The situation now is that the brand has approached me about taking over the site and domain and they want to know what terms I would like. So a full buyout or some sort of position within the company.

I don't particularly wish to work for the company as they are very corporate in nature and that really does not suit my personality or the way I like to work. So I think a buyout would be the best solution for all concerned.

The question is, how much do I pitch the site at? This is not a revenue generating site by the way. It never has been. But they do not need it to be. For them it is all about customer engagement. They don't sell to end users anyway. They said they want to develop a closer relationship with their users and begin to have a "two way conversation" with them.

With a revenue generating site it would be fairly simple to work out what it is worth but this is not that sort of site and they want it for a very different purpose.

What to do? How does one put a value on a website like this? I don't know where to start.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks.
#brand #buy #domain #major #site
  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    Only you can put a figure on the time and financial investment you've put into this site over the years, but the company clearly considers it to be of value if it's being used for customer acquisition.

    I'd be inclined to tell them you're happy with the current arrangement, but if they want to take it over, let them make you an offer. That would give you a basis for negotiation.

    I'd also get a legal opinion on the trade mark issue. The fact the company has allowed you to use their brand for 20 years might give you some legal protection against any enforcement order that would compel you to release the site or change the name. But you'd need to speak to a professional.

    Good luck!
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    • Profile picture of the author thetgc
      Thanks, Frank. I did think perhaps they should be making an offer, as it is they who have instigated the discussion.

      My initial thoughts are they I am fine with things the way they are. I have a good team of moderators, the traffic is good, registered membership is on a constant upward curve and of course, the site is still completely independent which gives me a large amount of freedom to cover other brands and also to be honest in reviews.

      The company has said that for this project, which is all about engaging with users, they either need to create a forum from scratch or take over mine. So I think it is of high value to them, as is the domain which is well known and has all the google links and ranking. Creating such a community from scratch is a costly and time-consuming thing.

      I do get the impression, reading between the lines, that this is a bit of a carrot and stick situation. And should I decide not to sell or in some way give them control of the site that they would request I stop using their brand name. If that turned out to be the case I would simply switch to another domain and park the one I have so, really that is never going to be a win for them.

      We have promoted their products for free for the last 20 years and I think if they took the big stick route they would only succeed in alienating a huge swathe of customers and potential customers.

      I will do as you suggest and put the ball back in their court. Lets see what it is worth to them.
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  • Profile picture of the author agmccall
    Get a lawyer involved. I have never sold a site or domain but one thing I realize from reading all the horror stories is "Do not give any control of anything until the check clears and you are paid in full"

    al
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    • Profile picture of the author Monetize
      Originally Posted by agmccall View Post

      Get a lawyer involved. I have never sold a site or domain but one thing I realize from reading all the horror stories is "Do not give any control of anything until the check clears and you are paid in full"

      al

      Websites/domains are usually paid for through escrow.
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      • Profile picture of the author DABK
        I second asking them to make you an offer and getting a lawyer.

        I real estate, in my area, if someone lets you occupy their property for 20 years, you become the owner of that property. If you pay the taxes on it, you become the owner after 7 years.

        There might be something similar here: maybe not own the brand.. they kept using it, but the right to keep using it, to be co-owner.

        Or, maybe not, and you end up being sued if you do not sell for next to nothing. An attorney would probably get you more.

        I am not an attorney so ignore my musings and get an attorney. Maybe two: one to handle property rights and one for the sale...
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  • Profile picture of the author Monetize
    This is a site that is NOT generating any revenue?
    So you're volunteering your time promoting this
    company for free? I am really curious why you have
    been doing this for twenty years. Anyway, whenever
    someone wants something from you, let them make
    you an offer because, in my experience, it's highly
    likely that they will be offering much more than what
    (I) would have asked for. And if I were you, and if it's
    a reasonable offer, I would accept that offer, transfer
    the domain and all its files in an organized fashion,
    offer to help set things up on their hosting or transfer
    your hosting along with the domain name, and move
    on to the next thing.
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  • Profile picture of the author thetgc
    I have sold websites before but they were completely different in nature. They did generate a small amount of revenue so I had a pretty good idea what they were worth. This one is outside any experience I have.

    However I definitely would not be handing anything over until contracts were in place and had been very closely examined. I would always want to use an Escrow service to facilitate payment.

    @monetize The site and the brand is from the music industry and we are all musicians. We tend to get attached to certain brands of instrument and there are plenty of sites specific to instruments that are run on a voluntary basis. My own site has grown into a news & reviews type thing but with a large an active community attached.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    I think you touched on a real possibility. You have used the brand name with the company's knowledge/consent for years.

    I think they are using a 'carrot' because they know they don't have a 'stick'. Maintaining trademark is dependent on protecting the trademark - and they have allowed you to use it. They cannot now rewrite that history. Very doubtful the company could shut down the site over trademark after allowing its use...but that does not mean they couldn't cost you a bit in legal fees along the way.

    My initial thoughts are they I am fine with things the way they are. I have a good team of moderators, the traffic is good, registered membership is on a constant upward curve and of course, the site is still completely independent which gives me a large amount of freedom to cover other brands and also to be honest in reviews.
    First hurdle for you - decide if you are interested in selling....or NOT. You don't have to sell.

    The company has said that for this project, which is all about engaging with users, they either need to create a forum from scratch or take over mine. So I think it is of high value to them, as is the domain which is well known and has all the google links and ranking. Creating such a community from scratch is a costly and time-consuming thing.
    Creating a forum from scratch is a BIG job these days....it sounds good but truth is it's not easy to get people to engage or to keep them engaged. Buying a popular forum/site is really the only good option for the company. That is 2021 reality.

    Are there alternatives to a 'sale'? Perhaps allowing advertising and a special part of the forum to be dedicated only to that company's new product (for a good fee, of course)?

    If it were me I would never give a price - I would be honest and say "I don't really want to sell but send me your best offer and I will consider it". Sounds as it your connections in that company would realize you are just being honest. If the offer is a great one - might be worth selling out.
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  • Profile picture of the author thetgc
    Thanks Kay. The company asked that, if I were willing to sell, would I also be willing to continue to support the forum? and if so, how would I prefer to do that, as a consultant/employee and over what time frame?

    I have mixed feelings about it. This has been a huge part of my life for the last 20 years. I enjoy helping people and doing reviews etc but, it is also a big time sink and I don't earn anything from it all. Ideally I would be at least making some sort of living from it.

    Forums are incredibly hard things to get started these days. Most people stick to Facebook and other social media but, there definitely is still a place for forums. It is just that initial launch and momentum building that is the problem. My site not only has a very active user base but an archive of valuable material spread over two decades.

    Anyway, I need to get back to them in a couple of days and I think I will stick to that simple response of asking them to make an offer and go from there.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    You could possibly ask for two offers...


    1. outright sale of the forum with your participation only long enough to transition to new admins and train/introce new owners


    2. sale with you as an ongoing administrator on a (quarterly?) contract at a decent fee


    The problem with 'employee status' is this: There will be changes after a sale- I've seen that with more than one forum over the years. New owners want to make their 'mark' - and changes may be good or not so good. It will not be something you can control after you sell so I'd suggest your participation be on a short term/renewable basis in case you want out.


    a big time sink and I don't earn anything from it all

    More accurate to say you have not earned anything YET from it - selling at a decent price would pay you back for some of the effort over the years.
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  • Profile picture of the author fracti
    DO not make an offer, they might counter with a lawsuit in WIPO claiming you are cyber squatting.

    Say make me an offer, my lawyer advised me, I cannot give you a number.

    Good luck

    Beware of corporate sharks, they will try to steal it
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    • Profile picture of the author thetgc
      I am definitely not even going to mention a ball-park figure now. They obviously have a minimum and maximum amount in mind and I would be shooting myself in the foot to give them a figure as it might even be below what they would initially offer.
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      • Profile picture of the author Monetize
        Originally Posted by thetgc View Post

        I am definitely not even going to mention a ball-park figure now. They obviously have a minimum and maximum amount in mind and I would be shooting myself in the foot to give them a figure as it might even be below what they would initially offer.

        You will be fine. Let us know how it goes.
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  • Profile picture of the author thetgc
    Something just occurred to me. What happens if they instigate proceedings to get control of the domain? My plan in that case would have been to change the name and domain of the site and do a 301 redirect and a change of address in Google using their Change of address tool.

    But now I am thinking that if they were to raise a dispute about the domain name then I might be prevented from doing the above?

    I have moved from one domain to another before but never when a domain was being disputed.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Originally Posted by thetgc View Post

      Something just occurred to me. What happens if they instigate proceedings to get control of the domain? My plan in that case would have been to change the name and domain of the site and do a 301 redirect and a change of address in Google using their Change of address tool.
      But now I am thinking that if they were to raise a dispute about the domain name then I might be prevented from doing the above?
      The advice you've been given in this thread about consulting a legal professional is because there are legal stipulations involved in protecting a trademark. The fact that this company has been complicit in promoting your site over several years might well disqualify them from now instigating any proceedings.

      Get a legal answer on that before thinking about any subsequent move.
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    • Profile picture of the author Monetize
      Originally Posted by thetgc View Post

      Something just occurred to me. What happens if they instigate proceedings to get control of the domain? My plan in that case would have been to change the name and domain of the site and do a 301 redirect and a change of address in Google using their Change of address tool.

      But now I am thinking that if they were to raise a dispute about the domain name then I might be prevented from doing the above?

      I have moved from one domain to another before but never when a domain was being disputed.

      Don't put the cart before the horse. If they wanted to dispute you
      they wouldn't have asked you what you want for the site. Get in
      touch with your point of contact and ask them to make you an
      offer. Send a well-written email if you are too emotional to have
      a conversation right now. And stop worrying because you are
      only going to make yourself sick over all of this.
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      • Profile picture of the author thetgc
        Yep your right. Overthinking it. I need to step back and get a little perspective
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