Former ICANN chief strategy officer Kurt Pritz had a conflict of interest related to back-end registry provider ARI Registry Services, DI can reveal.
Pritz resigned last week after disclosing the potential conflict to CEO Fadi Chehade, leading to a great deal of industry speculation about the specific nature of the problem.
Chehade revealed to attendees at an unrelated community meeting at ICANN headquarters in Los Angeles last Thursday that the conflict was of a “personal” nature.
Since then, I’ve managed to uncover the basic facts of the story – more than enough to confirm that it’s a personal issue and to establish that there do not appear to be any financial conflicts.
So I’ve decided not to report the full details, other than to say the conflict relates to ARI Registry Services, a major provider of back-end registry services for new gTLD applicants.
Pritz, as senior vice president for stakeholder relations and then chief strategy officer, was for a long time the key ICANN executive overseeing the new gTLD program.
I understand that the conflict was voluntarily disclosed by Pritz.
He also appears to have been held to at least as high a standard of ethics as ICANN’s own board of directors.
While ICANN clearly determined that there was a risk of a perception of a conflict of interest, I’ve discovered no reason to believe there was any actual wrongdoing by ICANN, ARI or Pritz.
The recent public record does not appear to reveal any instances of Pritz giving any special treatment to ARI. If anything, I believe the evidence would most likely lead to the opposite conclusion.
For example, during recent Trademark Clearinghouse implementation talks, Pritz was staunchly opposed to key aspects of a community solution co-developed by ARI.
As reported last month, these talks were notable for Pritz’s attempts to block some important parts of the community proposal, despite aggressive lobbying by ARI executives.
In short, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here.
It’s my belief that Pritz’s resignation is the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances occurring at an organization that is – understandably – hyper-sensitive to negative perceptions about its integrity.