Starboard controls a roughly 6.5% stake in the company worth around $800 million, according to people familiar with the matter. While the hedge fund’s exact plans couldn’t be learned, Starboard typically pushes the companies it invests in to boost profit margins or improve performance in other ways and often seeks seats on their boards.
In addition to selling domain names, Tempe, Ariz.-based GoDaddy hosts websites and sells other web services to businesses. Its shares haven’t done much over the past three years and closed Dec. 23 at $76 apiece, giving the company a market value of around $12.7 billion.
The shares received a boost in early November when GoDaddy reported that third-quarter revenue rose 14% to $964 million and forecast full-year revenue of around $3.765 billion.
GoDaddy was founded in 1997 by Bob Parsons and became known for its provocative advertising, including Super Bowl commercials and spots featuring race-car driver Danica Patrick. The company was sold to private-equity firms KKR & Co., Silver Lake Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures in 2011.
By the time the private-equity firms took it public in 2015, GoDaddy was remaking its image to attract entrepreneurs and emphasize products beyond web addresses, such as e-commerce tools. The company has benefited from the rush by companies to expand their online presence and the growing ranks of small-business owners, but increased competition has also hindered its growth.
While no longer major shareholders, Silver Lake and KKR still hold seats on the company’s board.
Starboard has invested in other domain-registry companies, including Web.com Group Inc., which was taken private in 2018 for around $2 billion, and a similar company Web.com had combined with years earlier.
The fund, run by Jeff Smith, has invested in many other technology names, including NortonLifeLock Inc., where Starboard’s managing member and head of research Peter Feld holds a board seat. Since Starboard got involved at the company previously known as Symantec, it sold its enterprise-security business for around $11 billion and agreed to combine with cybersecurity firm Avast PLC to further focus on consumer software.