Archive | August, 2011

ICANN to part company with CEO Rod Beckstrom

According (typically) to an announcement on Twitter, ICANN’s Chief Executive Officer Rod Beckstrom has apparently decided not to renew his contract with ICANN, and will be leaving the organisation in (just under) a year’s time.

In the manner of his announced departure he’s entirely courteous, if (to this author’s mind) somewhat disingenuous.  This time there’s no trace of petulancy apparent in his resignation communication.

As you might expect, in early reactions on Twitter, most people appear to be skeptical at the spin placed by Beckstrom on this. A charitable view might to be that it’s simply a pre-emptive response to ICANN’s official press release.

ICANN’s own announcement is, to my mind, peculiarly worded.

“Rod Beckstrom will continue to fulfill his term as ICANN’s President and CEO” it says. That makes it sound like this was somehow in doubt!

Beckstrom appears to the author have been as equally successful in his tenure at ICANN as he was at the United States’ National Cybersecurity Centre. There is of course a range of other opinions as to how well he’s done at ICANN. They seem to range from   ‘mediocre’ thrpugh ‘awful’ to ‘risible’.

But looking at it from his point of view, he himself seems to have done quite nicely out of it.

Many developing countries (who struggle from a financial and logistical basis to participate in ICANN) have an annual per capita income when expressed in US dollars of less than the cost of a single night in the ICANN conference hotel at many of its meetings.

Compare that stark statistic further, with Beckstrom’s total remuneration and benefits package, which I understand, has run to millions of dollars, which, I understand is somewhat greater than his somewhat dour predecessor, Paul Twomey.

As an aside, a number of comments from long-time ICANNites along the lines of ‘bring back Paul Twomey’ have been heard in recent weeks — although Paul can be perfectly affable, this a desire that I personally find to be somewhat akin to Ostalgie, or the political objective of the Titanic Party: (‘Wir wollen die Mauer wieder aufbauen’).

Chef Beckstrom was subject to very heavy criticism at the Public Forum in San Franscico,much of it coming from Lesley Cowley OBE (CEO of Nominet UK) and former ICANN staff member Maria Farrell, over the stampede of experienced staff that have headed for the door since Beckstrom’s arrival on the set of Kitchen Nightmares ICANN.

Beckstrom recently described his time with ICANN as ‘great teambuilding’. Don’t you just love uninentional irony?

Furthermore, at that same San Francisco Public Forum, he became the subject of derision which emanated principally from one regular attendee and long-time ICANN contributor  who asked “purely for medicinal reasons, what weed he has been smoking”.

Subsequently, when repeatedly tasked by the author of this article whether ICANN would stand up for human rights in its work, Beckstrom responded via Twitter to say that: “… I don’t believe the community has developed DNS policies on Human Rights”

ICANN now has 11 months to recruit a successor. The ICANN Board should bear in mind that experience shows that paying overlarge salaries is no guarantee of quality.

ICANN is a unique, multi-stakeholder, multi-national organisation.

Whilst such future appointments must be made entirely on merit (and self-evidently can only be made from those who apply and are shortlisted) it might be useful to bear in mind that although eloquent native-English speakers such as the likes of Paul Twomey, Peter Dengate-Thrush, Chris Disspain, Lesley Cowley,  Willie Black and many others do offer very significant advantages with a high level of competence and from an organizational effectiveness perspective, ICANN should at least seriously consider this time to appoint a CEO from a non-Anglo-Saxon background to show the rest of the world it really is serious about its purported commitment to diversity. (I hear Dominque Strauss-Kahn might shortly become available for employment!)

Finally, if you want more background, as ever, Kieren McCarthy has much of the inside scoop whilst Kevin Murphy is as dryly insightful as ever.

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