Why Would the Owners of Rays.com Refuse to Sell the Domain to Tampa Bay Rays?

Rays.com is an ultra-premium domain name owned by a restaurant brand going by the name Ray’s. Tampa Bay Rays is an organization with a very large budget. If you thought that there could not be a more perfect buyer of the domain, you’d be right. So why would the current owner of Rays.com refuse to sell to the major league baseball organization for a sizeable amount as reported in MY Northwest? This goes to the very core of the true value of quality domain names and the difficulty of acquiring a domain from someone who is already using it. To the credit of Ray’s owners, they saw the potential of a good domain very early on. As early as 1996. Only 2 years later, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, as they were known back then, realized how valuable it would be for them owning the domain, rays.com.

Exact match domains for major league teams have generally sold for under 400K dollars US. For example, according to namebio.com, Cowboys.com sold for 370,000, Rangers.com and Jets.com sold for 375,000 each. So this seems to be the past going rate for exact match domain (EMD) sales for major league team names. Past sales, however, is not a determiner for what Rays.com could sell for eventually, if it does sell at all. The same is true of any domain. Past sales can indicate that a name is valuable, but this is not an indicator of the current and future value of a domain name by any means.

So what could be the reasoning behind the current owner of rays.com not wanting to sell the domain to Tampa Bay Rays organization?

The first and most obvious reason is the brand that they have built up over the past 26 years, about half of the restaurant’s history, that is associated with the domain name. Doug Zellers, co-owner of Ray’s, is quoted as saying:

He says a simple, four-letter domain is great from a marketing and promotions standpoint.

“Plus, it’s some brand integrity,” he said. “We’re true to who we are. We’re not going to sell out for money to change who we are or what we stand for.”

This shows a keen understanding of branding. A domain name is like a catapult that takes your brand to new heights not possible otherwise. To sell the domain name would signal that you have sold-out to corporate interests and that your confidence in your own brand is not that strong. This would not sit well with loyal clientele and investors. It also shows that the value of a domain goes beyond just the immediate intrinsic arbitrary value of a domain placed by the current state of the market.

The brand that can be built upon a domain name can far outvalue the cost of buying a domain at current fair market prices. The fact that Ray’s has spent decades building a brand with the domain name must be taken into account when pricing it. This leads us to the second possible reason behind why the owners of Ray’s do not want to sell the domain.

The article also goes on to say this:

“No,” Zellers insisted, “there’s no price. The ownership group is not interested in selling that off.”

Still, Zellers says he’s happy to sit down and talk with MLB.

“Come in. You can sit on the deck and I’ll shake your hands and we’ll have a good time. You can learn all about Rays.”

So it appears that there is a slight crack in the door to allow MLB (Major League Baseball) to present something that Ray’s might be interested in. Something that Zellers can take to the ownership group. The likely scenario is that the current offer made by MLB is way too far apart from what Ray’s owners would even consider. And if MLB is using the past sales of EMD’s of team names as a guide, which is around the 300K mark, then they are way off. You cannot use past sales to determine the price of a domain today. There are too many variables to consider. In the case if Ray’s restaurants, the number would have to be sufficient enough to be able to overcome the potential hit to their brand. What that number might be, only they know.

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