Robert_Charlton - 9:18 am on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)
I did see spammy keyword practices such as having two dozen nearly identical articles with only slightly different titles.
Whatever previous owners did onsite shouldn't make any difference if you're redoing the site from scratch.
John Mueller has stated that a domain's backlink history follows it.
RedCardinal, thanks for the video links and your care in marking the relevant times. The first-listed video is dated Oct 8, 2012, the second-listed is Sep 28, 2012, and the third is Oct 29, 2012. The link disavowal tool was announced by Matt Cutts at PubCon on Oct 16, 2012, after the first two videos but before the third one.
To modify a comment I made about using the disavow tool... the tool is for disavowing links associated with the algorithmic "penalty" involved in the Penguin update, and probably shouldn't be used otherwise. It definitely shouldn't be used preemptively, and in this case that may not be necessary.
I get the sense from John Mueller's comments that change of ownership and change of content have been big factors which Google has paid attention to for a while, but that some backlink histories had been so messy that bad algorithmic effects lingered on, even after reconsideration requests.
What John Mueller said in the third video suggests to me that Google really does want to facilitate development of old domains that are bought as the basis to build new and improved sites. While he didn't mention the disavow tool in any of the video I saw, I'm thinking that the tool could be what's intended to clean the slate where reconsideration requests won't help. Doesn't sound like this domain has been used that badly.
I couldn't care less about previous history beyond not wanting it to hold the potential of the new site down.
I'd say go for it.
I'll try to come back in a few months to let you know the results.
Thanks, that's always helpful to the rest of us. Good luck.