ICANN’s new CEO started work today, two weeks ahead of his original schedule, and immediately made several big changes to the senior management team.
In what can only be described as a ballsy move, Fadi Chehadé has already recruited two of his erstwhile rivals for the CEO job into newly created senior positions.
Other senior executives have also been promoted, a move that Chehadé hopes will send a message about his priorities.
He outlined his changes in an interview with DI.
Two big new hires
Seasoned public relations executive Sally Costerton has been hired as chief stakeholder engagement officer, while Egypt’s former minister of communications Tarek Kamel is the new senior adviser for government affairs. Both are new positions.
Both had put themselves forward as candidates to replace departing CEO Rod Beckstrom earlier this year and both were shortlisted by ICANN’s executive search team before they settled on Chehadé.
Costerton, described last year as “arguably the most senior woman in the UK PR consultancy business” is the British former CEO of the EMEA arm of Hill & Knowlton, a major PR agency.
While Kamel’s technical and internet governance credentials are sound, he’s a potentially controversial hire.
An engineer by training, he’s spent most of his career involved in telecommunications and internet regulatory matters.
Along with his government duties, he’s participated in the Internet Society, the Internet Governance Forum, and has been involved with ICANN since the very beginning, speaking at its two Cairo meetings.
But he’s best-known most recently for being Egypt’s minister of IT under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency, up until the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Basically, he was in charge when the internet got turned off.
While I can see Kamel’s appointment creating headlines in the coming days (think “ICANN hires man who turned off the internet”), Chehadé insists that his actions during the revolution were “near heroism”.
“He did not turn off the internet,” Chehadé told DI. “As I’ve spent quite a bit of time understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding what did take place in Egypt, it turns out that’s a wrong fact.”
“Tarek was put under an enormous amount of personal risk for himself, for his family,” Chehadé said. “Once I understood the facts I’m very confident that Tarek was a very positive force in the events that took place during this tumultuous time in Egypt.”
“I now am very clear on the frankly near-heroism that he has put on the table in order to ensure the people of Egypt got their services back as quickly as possible,” he said.
Promotions for Serad and Pritz
Kurt Pritz, who’s currently senior vice president of stakeholder relations and acting director of the new gTLD program, is getting promoted to a C-level spot, reporting to Chehadé.
Pritz, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the new gTLD program and willingness to get beaten up by the community on a regular basis, is not somebody you want to risk leaving ICANN at this critical juncture.
He’ll be chief of strategy from now on.
Maguy Serad, who was hired as senior director of contractual compliance in March 2011, has been promoted to vice president of contractual compliance, effective today, reporting directly to Chehadé.
Chehadé said that he wants Serad’s promotion to send a message to the community about the importance of the compliance function, something he discussed during his speech in Prague this June.
“I will be frankly bringing a lot more weight and a lot more independent management from my office to the compliance function,” he said. “This is important both in substance and as well as in sending a clear message of the importance of this area to the community.”
“I’m doing it on the first day to send that message clearly.”
With Barbara Ann Clay resigning as vice president of communications a couple of weeks ago, her function has been filled on an interim basis by Jim Trengrove, who’s reporting to Costerton.
Elad Levinson, who is no longer vice president of organizational effectiveness, is not being immediately replaced.
Chehadé said that these two departures did not happen on his watch and offered no additional details.
Akram Atallah, who has been keeping the CEO’s chair warm since Beckstrom left in early July, will resume his former role as chief operating officer from today.
His position is being expanded to include the operations side of the new gTLD program, registry and registrar services, and security, Chehadé said.