An IPv4 Windfall: Circuit City's Addresses Now On The Block, Along With Borders

Following last week's word that the Borders bankruptcy was unleashing tens of thousands of much-needed IPv4 addresses back into the retail online world comes word that fellow bankrupt retailer Circuit City is now selling its old IPv4 addresses—and Circuit City has twice as many as Borders. That will put almost 197,000 of the hard-to-get addresses out there for the highest bidder.

Let's take this slowly. Circuit City hasn't been an in-store national chain since 2009. But when it liquidated, no one apparently thought about the IP addresses, according to Gabe Fried, the founding principal of Stream Bank LLC, which handled Circuit City's liquidation and is now handling the one for Borders.

"The people who knew that [Circuit City] had these assets left the company" rather abruptly when Circuit City didn't find a buyer for the chain and liquidation proceedings began, Fried said. "The problem involved management bandwidth and a lack of knowledge of [the IPv4 addresses'] existence."

The IPv4 addresses from Borders are a /16 contiguous Class B block, and "we have two additional Class B blocks from Circuit City," Fried said.

How much are these numeric treasures likely to cost? Fried said he hopes to pull in about $11 an address, which is roughly how much Nortel's IPv4 addresses sold for. Back in March, Microsoft picked up about 666,000 of the Nortel addresses for $7.5 million.

But will the ultimate price be a lot more? "We anticipate that the demand will exceed supply," Fried said.

Among other intellectual property goodies up for sale from Borders is one abandoned Patent application involving virtual bookshelves. The application was abandoned by Borders after the Patent office indicated it was not inclined to approve the patent given a lack of novelty, Fried said, so it's not likely to be a hot-seller.

But there are some leftover Circuit City patents involving digital media that Fried said looked much more compelling.

Borders is also selling a lot of private customer data, as expected. Documents with the bankruptcy proceedings describe it as "a proprietary database of customer information tracked by customer E-mail address and including customer data captured at the point of sale on Borders.com and through the Borders Rewards [approximately 21 million active members] and Borders Rewards Plus [approximately 1.8 million active members] programs. Customer data is maintained by Borders with the assistance of a third-party service provider, Epsilon Data Management. Borders regularly evaluates its customer data using RFM (recency, frequency and monetary) analysis techniques."

Given how quickly E-mail addresses change, Fried was asked how perishable he considered the almost 23-million-name database. He said that E-mail databases have recently been getting out-of-date more slowly, as layoff-worried employees stop using their corporate domain E-mails (as in [email protected]) and instead use personal addresses (as in [email protected]) for lists such as Borders.

Another popular asset is Borders.com and several variations of that domain. It's not clear what Borders.com will sell for, but Circuit City's Internet assets sold for about $17 million and Borders' Internet assets are expected to sell in that same range, perhaps a little lower.

The bid deadline is September 8, with an auction date of September 14.

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