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I acquired an existing small website not too long ago. When I went to register the domain on google apps, it turned out the domain was already registered and I would need to contact whoever had previously set it up. Which turned out not to be the folks I acquired it from, but instead the original owner who had transferred the site to them.

He told me when he originally sold the site, he retained the rights to the MX records. Why would anybody want to do this? He hasn't been associated with the site in years. Is this a common practice?

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It kind of sounds like the old-new owners didn't want to deal with mail configuration, so the old-old owner just kept that responsibility.

However, that was an agreement between those two, not you and the old-old owner. If you own the site, and you own the domain name, it's pretty much yours, and you aren't obligated to keep the arrangement. Or are you? Did you sign any sort of paperwork when you bought the site? Maybe a record of what you were and were not buying? Perhaps you did, and this little detail was there?

Or you didn't, and the new-old and old-old owners are just insane.

You probably wouldn't be making a bad move by firmly but very politely requesting that the old-old owner let go.

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I would imagine that he once had one or more email addresses using the domain, and he still gets emails to those addresses from people who haven't updated their address books and are using those addresses. And so he needs to retain control of the MX records so that he can route email for the domain to his mail server.

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