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Bible.com hopes to divine bidder interest

Posted On: March 03, 2011

The Good Book may lead to a good deal, now that Bible.com Inc. is on the auction block.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company, whose website boasts about 18 million page views per month and serves as a hub for visitors to interact, post prayer requests and attain various translations of the Bible, was founded in 1995 when husband and wife ministers Bud and Betty Miller purchased the Bible.com domain name from the estate of Grateful Dead lead singer and songwriter Jerry Garcia for $50.

"When Garcia died [in 1995], the URL was part of his estate," said the banker handling the auction, David Iannini of Los Angeles-based William & Henry Associates. "[The Millers] happened to notice it and bought it."

Bud Miller is chairman of the company, and Betty is president. With both in their early 80s, the board of directors at Bible.com decided to hire Iannini to solicit potential buyers.

"They want everyone to know that it's available and that they're considering offers," Iannini said.

Even though he would not comment on the value of bids he expects to receive, Iannini hopes Bible.com will be as blessed as two other domain name deals.

Last year, Amazon.com Inc. offered to acquire Montclair, N.J.-based Quidsi Inc., the parent company of Diapers.com and Soap.com, for $540 million, on Nov. 8. And in 2007, Answers Corp., which runs Answers.com, agreed to pay $100 million in cash to buy Lexico Publishing Group LLC, a privately held Long Beach, Calif.-based company whose main asset was Dictionary.com.

Whether or not bidders will pay up for Bible.com remains to be seen. "We're going to see what the market says," Iannini said.

So far, Iannini knows of only one website that competes directly with Bible.com — BibleGateway.com, which is owned and operated by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Zondervan Publishing. Gospel Communications Inc. sold the religious site to Zondervan in October 2008. Terms of that deal were not announced.

Bible.com incorporates the teachings and lessons of the Bible with new media such as social networks and handheld devices. Its following will play a role in the auction, Iannini said, explaining that the company is looking for "a buyer that will preserve the mission of the site, which is based around the Bible."

But that precondition may turn off bidders, according to Jeffrey Dulberg from Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP in Los Angeles, who served as debtor counsel to Escom LLC, which sold the rights to website address Sex.com to Clover Holdings Ltd. for $13 million in an October bankruptcy sale.

"For Sex.com, I think the range of bidders was broadened by the fact that the business that was associated with it over the years was unsuccessful or not well-known," Dulberg said.

There were even rumors that the federal government was looking to buy Sex.com with the idea of turning it into a site that preaches abstinence, he added.

"It was an opportunity to make something from scratch," Dulberg said. "Any buyer could rebrand the website however they wished, as opposed to absorbing its goodwill."

Because Bible.com is so specific, that could make it more difficult to pitch, he explained.

"If you decide to separate the business," Dulberg said, "you're still going to live with what people remember."

Dealbooks have not been distributed yet, a source said, adding that those likely to get hold of one include Yahoo! Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., Google Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., or Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash.

"One thing they don't have is a religion or bible-related site," the source said about those potential bidders. "On a bigger platform like a Google, a Yahoo! or MSN, this could have a much bigger following."

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