Sex.com, long coveted as potentially one of the most lucrative sites on the Web because of its catchy name, has been sold for about $12 million in cash and stock, a source familiar with the deal said Monday.
A group of anonymous buyers, Boston-based Escom LLC, said in a statement it had acquired the Web address Sex.com from Gary Kremen, chief executive of Grant Media LLC and the founder of Match.com. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Sex.com is seen as one of the most recognizable and therefore financially most promising Web domain names but does not currently have much content.
The new owners said in the statement that they plan to transform Sex.com into "the market-leading adult entertainment destination," which they said would include "adult dating opportunities," sex and relationship advice, erotica, video-on-demand and live chat.
XBiz.com, an adult entertainment trade site, first reported the sale of Sex.com last week and said Escom had agreed to pay $14 million.
But the source said the value of the deal was closer to $12 million and involved cash and stock, as well as requirements that the business meet certain performance targets.
The sale ranks as one of the most expensive Web domain name transfers ever and outpaces the $7.5 million paid for business.com in 1999 at the peak of the dotcom boom.
Kremen -- the founder of Match.com, the matchmaking site now owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp -- regained control of Sex.com after a legal battle dating back to 1997 and subsequent struggles over management and ownership interests.
The site makes money selling banner ads pointing to online pornography sites. Apparently because of its current role as an intermediary site, Sex.com does not even rank among the top 1,000 adult entertainment sites among U.S. Internet users, according to data by Web measurement firm Hitwise.
Kremen plans to continue as an adviser to the site.