Since 2003, Register.com
Both parties agreed to a peace settlement. In the deal, Register.com agreed to distribute $120 million to shareholders. Mitarotonda said he believed there were few opportunities for the money. So, why not give it back to shareholders?
What's more, Mitarotonda got a seat on the board. In return, he agreed to a standstill agreement, in which he would not make a bid for the company for the next two years.
Well, Mitarotonda wants another bite of the apple. Recently, he purchased up to 15% of Register.com at $7 per share, then indicated to the board that he wants to buy the company.
What's his offer? It comes to a minimum of $7.10 per share. That might be tough; after all, the current price is $7.78.
Register.com is a leader in the domain name registration business. The company also sells other online services to businesses, including e-commerce solutions. In all, it manages about 3 million registered domain names.
However, Register.com is in a commodity business. Does it really matter if I get a domain registered from, say, Register.com or godaddy.com? Not really. They all use the same system. It really comes down to price, and prices have been falling. Not long ago, a registration cost $100. Now a one-year lease on a domain name costs $8.95 or less.
So why is Register.com attractive? It has a diversified customer base and an opportunity to add new services. It could be valuable to a company that wants to participate in the marketplace for small or medium-sized businesses. For example, if Google
Last year, Register.com had $100.9 million in revenues and $3.3 million in profits. It also has $108 million in the bank, compared with a market cap of $188 million.
Besides, Register.com is vulnerable. It has a new CEO and recently regained compliance with its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
While Register.com's board rejected Mitarotonda's offer as too little, it is nonetheless open to higher bids. The company has hired Credit Suisse First Boston to help with "strategic alternatives." Those options might include another distribution of cash, or selling the company to a private equity group or another firm.
Last week, Register.com investors got even more excitement. Mark Cuban, co-founder of Broadcast.com (which he sold to Yahoo!
With the hefty stakes of Cuban and Mitarotonda -- and the likelihood that a big part of the company's shareholder base is composed of quick-trigger hedge funds -- the board is certainly under intense pressure to get a deal done. If they want to avoid a lawsuit, their sale price should include a premium above the share price.
This is definitely a speculation play, and proxy fights take time. After all, Mitarotonda started his fight two years ago. Casual investors should steer clear -- Register.com's current shareholder slugfest is for professionals only.
Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.