MoFo, Kirkland Aid Ethos Capital Buy of Web Domain Firm Donuts

April 2, 2021, 10:55 AM

Morrison & Foerster advised private equity firm Ethos Capital LLC on its acquisition of a controlling stake in top-level domain provider Donuts Inc.

Kirkland & Ellis advised seller Abry Partners on the deal, which involves two former leaders at ICANN, the global nonprofit that manages internet domains.

No financial terms were disclosed.

“We appreciate that Donuts helps businesses establish and promote their digital identities, while also maintaining data security,” Ethos Co-CEO Fadi Chehadé said in a March 31 statement.

Chehadé, a former partner at Abry, was, from 2012 to 2016, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better known as ICANN, a global nonprofit that manages the internet domain system. Donuts CEO Akram Atallah spent eight years as president of ICANN’s global domains division.

Ethos caused some controversy in 2019 by trying to buy, in a $1.1 billion deal brokered by Mofo and Proskauer Rose, the organization that manages the .org top-level internet domain favored by nonprofits. Faced with protests by activists and politicians, ICANN scuttled the deal in 2020.

Based in Seattle, Donuts says it holds the world’s largest portfolio of top-level domains, operating nearly 25 million names under management. It runs the registry Name.com and provides services to individuals and organizations.

Ethos Capital’s partners in the acquisition include Boston-based investment manager Baupost Group and funds managed by Neuberger Berman, among others, according to the statement.

Ethos Capital’s founder and CEO Erik Brooks was previously managing partner at Abry Partners.

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rmitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com
To contact the editor on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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