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December 2003
The loneliest millionaire
Judd Handler, San Diego Jewish Journal

Consider this tale of love and irony: Gary Kremen,40, is a multi-millionaire. He lives in a 9,000-square-foot house in Rancho Santa Fe, the wealthiest community in the U.S. He's Jewish, has never been married and has no children. He started the website March.com, the largest online dating service on the web.

The irony? He still can't find a date.

Kremen is so desperate to find a nice Jewish girl that he's offering a reward of $25,000 to the person who sets him up with his future Jewish bride or a woman willing to convert and marry. Even if the relationship doesn't lead to marriage, he's offering a $1,000 donation to a Jewish charity for the person who sets him up with a lady who's willing to go out with him for at least 10 dates.

So what's the catch? You'll have to find someone willing to go out with him. He's a former speed addict who would sometimes work for five days straight without sleep. Kremen kicked the speed habit about 18 months ago, but he's still addicted to his many business ventures. He's a workaholic with multiple phone numbers that don't stop ringing. He is pudgy and balding. His speech is fast-paced and nasally. George Costanza comes to mind, without the glasses and possessing slightly more hair and a much stronger entrepreneurial spirit.

But even George Costanza was loveable in his own way, like an irritable teddy bear. The baby-faced Kremen has a similar appeal. He possesses a combination of computer science genius and business acumen. He can be charming and accommodating.

Ladies: Kremen has lots of potential. Unlike Costanza, Kremen is growing.

A personal trainer visits Kremen's house daily. He practices yoga on an almost daily basis. He's eating healthier and he's even trying to be a nicer boss and businessperson. This is not easy for somebody whose motto could be "Sue Everybody."

Kremen's house is typical for the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant area, gorgeous yet so big you could lose your soul somewhere in its seven bedrooms. In the backdrop of the immense foyer, ripe lemons the size of softballs hang proudly from trees that stand next to a tennis court, a pool adorned with a magnificent fountain, and a hot tub, accoutrements requisite for a neighborhood that's home to the Bancrofts (Wall Street Journal), the late Joan Kroc (McDonald's) and even Bill Gates (a part-time resident).

"They wouldn't let me join the [Rancho Santa Fe] Association," says Kremen. "It took me about eight months of lawyers and official deeds to be able to join the Association." Kremen speculates that the powers-to-be in the Association wouldn't let him join because of his high profile and the nature of his business.

Like a gold-rush maverick of 150 years ago, Kremen gobbled up Internet domain names during the '90s, on the hunch they would soon become valuable virtual property. Two of the names he registered were Match.com and Sex.com. He didn't do much with Sex.com, at least until it was stolen. In October 1995, he realized that Network Solutions, central registrar for all Internet domain names at the time, transferred ownership of Sex.com to a five-time felon, Stephen Michael Cohen. All Cohen had to do to get Sex.com was forge a letter and make a phone call to Network Solutions. He didn't do it by e-mail because, as Cohen said in the letter, Sex.com didn't have e-mail.

After a three-year legal battle that cost Kremen $4.4 million and left him nearly broke, the courts returned Sex.com to Kremen in November 2000. Cohen, who turned Sex.com into a half-million dollar-a-month pornography site, was ordered to pay Kremen $65 million in damages. Cohen didn't pay a cent. He fled the country and remains a fugitive, presumably living in Mexico. (Up until 2001, Kremen was offering a $50,000 reward for his capture.) After Cohen fled, Kremen took what he could. The house in Rancho Santa Fe? That used to be Cohen's.

"I don't feel spooky at all living here," says Kremen. "For a while I slept in the guest house, but now I'm over it."

Kremen doesn't give a grand tour of the house, which is mostly devoid of furniture. "It's a typical frickin' house in Rancho Santa Fe," he laughs. "You don't need the tour." Kremen's office, one of the only decorated rooms in the house, is where his future-bride-to-be will most likely find him.

The wooded walls of his office are adorned with framed articles and his first job-wanted postings for Match.com. He points to a Forbes article written about his success with Match.com and proudly says that, "I'd like to think I've made a great contribution to the planet. I've created more love than anybody else."

Despite his wealth from other Internet ventures, Kremen didn't make a lot of money from Match.com. Even though the company was sold and resold for $50 million, Kremen, according to the San Jose Mercury News, only got $50,000 and a lifetime membership. You can still find his profile - "thefounder" - on the site.

Asked how many millions he's worth, Kremen replies, "It depends on what the value of Sex.com is. Maybe it's worth about five million." Kremen's net worth on paper could be in the high seven figures to low eight figures, considering all his investments and stakes in other companies. (For a list of the companies he's involved with, visit Kremen.com.)

Despite his wealth Kremen doesn't want a trophy wife; he desires a family with a strong Jewish identity, adhering to the religion's values and morals. It's a tough claim when you're CEO of Sex.com but Kremen doesn't see himself as a pornographer. "There's no hardcore imagery on Sex.com," he says. "You won't find any images on Sex.com that you wouldn't see on cable TV."

Sex.com is a directory of online adult entertainment. The images and language on the page are no more graphic than what you'd see on HBO's Real Sex, but hardcore porn is only a click away.

"Hardcore porn is only a click away on AOL," Kremen counters.

Kremen is not addicted to pornography, nor does he seem like a pervert. Although his presence is sometimes required at debauchery-laden adult entertainment industry events, Kremen would rather pontificate on the science behind computer search engines or Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Kremen's Jewish self-realization occurred during his sophomore year of high school, when neo-Nazis planned to march through his hometown of Skokie, Illinois, a heavily Jewish town with literally thousands of Holocaust survivors. The neo-Nazis, with the help of the largely Jewish American Civil Liberties Union, won the right to march but never did hit the streets of Skokie. They held rallies in Chicago instead.

"The Nazi march made me want to learn more about my Jewish identity," Kremen says. "Why are these people against us; what did we do?"

Kremen considers himself a politically conservative Jew. He hates what he calls "Jew-hating Jews," those who would attend a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli demonstration. Spending several years in San Francisco, Kremen encountered many liberal Jews. "The Jewish film festivals in San Francisco would make me sick. If I were to donate to a Jewish charity in San Francisco, the money might be used to buy potassium nitrate, which would wind up strapped on a 17-year old suicide bomber." Kremen says he donates to charities every month, such as CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) and ASACP (Adult Sites Against Child Porn).

Living alone, desiring a Jewish soul mate, and endlessly conducting business affairs, Kremen admits he's lonely. "I'm the perfect example of money not buying happiness," he says.

Kremen would actually make a good father and husband. His potential mate would have to be nurturing and patient, enjoy decorating his empty house, and not mind that even though he doesn't produce or sell the content, he still profits from pornography. Any offers?

 

 

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