A Man With a Price on His Head

Illinoisan lends noggin to Web hosting firm for about $4 a day

Jim Nelson may have soaked up too much radiation over the years.

Nelson, 22, who works for a union that supplies workers to nuclear plants, signed a deal this month with Web hosting firm C I Host to sport its logo on the back of his head for the next five years. It’s a color tattoo. It’s ugly. He gets $7,000.

Nelson auctioned his head on eBay, and the Dallas company bid after plans to tattoo someone’s forehead for $20,000 fell through. A San Francisco student and a Philadelphia family man both backed out “after they came to their senses or the alcohol wore off,” jokes C I CEO Christopher Faulkner. The 26-year-old, who started the company in his college dorm room in 1995, firmly believes in unconventional tactics to stretch his $55,000-70,000 marketing budget. “Obviously in our [saturated] business, you have to do something out of the box,” he says.

In 1999, C I sponsored Evander Holyfield’s boxing shorts for $100,000 in his bout with Lennox Lewis. The fight went 10 rounds, and the logo received more than a minute and a half of unobstructed airtime, which Faulkner figures was worth $5 million.

Nelson, who also sports five regular tattoos, must travel overseas twice a year and to 48 states over the course of his C I contract. (Luckily his job takes him all over.) One major stipulation in the agreement: If he tattoos derogatory remarks, like “sucks,” anywhere near the logo, he’ll be slapped with a $100,000 fine.

Never mind what’s on Nelson’s head: What’s going on inside it? He could not be reached, but he says in a statement that he needs cash for a fledgling swords and knives collectibles store in Moline, Ill. “Everybody will see [the tattoo], and I’m more than happy to do this for C I Host,” he says. “I’m glad that they won the bid because they seem like such nice people.”