The wily business model that catapulted Domain to the big time
Domain was founded in 1996 during the peak of Fairfax’s last rivers-of-gold period, but the business achieved significant digital scale and profitability when Antony “the Cat” Catalano returned to Fairfax in 2011.
For Fairfax shareholders, after a few false starts and a couple of would-be private equity suitors, the Domain spin-off is finally happening. After the separation, Fairfax shareholders will own 60% of the sort-of independent Domain business. Fairfax claims the main reason for the separation is to unlock “long term shareholder value” because Domain will have a separate valuation. This makes no sense as, in the long term, the market is efficient, and a dollar of earnings is a dollar of earnings. However, the separation will, of course, benefit speculators and profiteers who have pressured the Fairfax board to flip Domain for a quick return because, in the short term, the faster growing business will be graced with a higher-earnings multiple.
But far more interesting than the ham-fisted rationale for the separation, scrounged together by the poor investment banker or lawyer who was tasked with preparing the Scheme Booklet (note: your author has written many such booklet), is Domain’s controversial “Agent Ownership Model”.