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ICANN number two Atallah is new CEO of Donuts

Kevin Murphy, October 9, 2018, 18:33:28 (UTC), Domain Registries

Akram Atallah, head of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, has quit and joined Donuts as its new CEO, DI has learned.

According to multiple sources, Atallah’s last day at ICANN was yesterday.

While neither company has announced the move yet, I gather that ICANN staff were informed by CEO Goran Marby today.

The news comes just a month after private equity firm Abry Partners, which counts former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade among its partners, acquired Donuts for an undisclosed sum.

While the revolving door between industry and ICANN is pretty much continuous, Atallah is probably the highest-profile example since Kurt Pritz in 2012 and Peter Dengate Thrush in 2011.

As head of ICANN GDD, he was responsible for all things gTLD. Before the creation of the role, he was COO.

He was also interim president and CEO of the organization on two occasions, keeping the seat warm prior to the arrival of Chehade and Marby,

Atallah and Chehade also worked together in their pre-ICANN days in the software industry.

Donuts is of course the largest new gTLD registry in terms of TLDs, with 241 in its stable.

I’ve no word yet on where Bruce Jaffe, Donuts’ current CEO, is going, but I’ll update this post when I do.

Jaffe joined Donuts as chief a little over a year ago, replacing founder Paul Stahura.

Presumably, Jaffe was the turnaround guy and with Donuts’ acquisition secured the new owners figured it was time to hire an ops guy.

UPDATE 2022 UTC: Donuts just issued a press release in which it said that Jaffe will remain a senior adviser during the transition. It also said that Atallah starts in his new job November 12.

UPDATE October 10: ICANN said in a statement overnight that VP of DNS industry engagement Cyrus Namazi will head GDD on an interim basis, with support from CTO David Conrad.

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Comments (6)

  1. When this deal was announced, I said that some deals are about money and some are about control/power. I surmised that the Donuts deal was the latter. Indeed.

    Looking ahead, given the regulatory heavyweights at the helm of Donuts, look for more registries to be assimilated by Donuts, Borg-style. And look out for expanded regulatory compliance noose-tightening for ICANN regulated registries that are not controlled by Donuts already.

    The ICANN alumni appointment is no accident. Akram and Fadi are certainly aligned to execute the global game plan as is Goran which is why the Abry investment made sense. It was more subtle than selling to Amazon who secured mostly crap TLDs so far and is moving ever so slowly. Last time I saw Goran in person was at the UN. Unfortunately, he had no time for me so I can only surmise about the game plan here but will try to glean more insight at ICANN Barcelona later this month.

    Interesting times.

  2. Jed here again says:

    Does this give at least the impression of a conflict of interest?

    • Rob Hall says:

      What would the conflict of interest be ??? Akram is not doing both jobs at the same time. He has resigned from ICANN and moved onto a new position. Who cares if its in the domain industry.

      The domain space is a fun and fascinating one to work in. The list of people who have stayed in the industry and moved from one company to another is long. This deep bench of talent is one of the ingredients that gives this industry its strength.

      I say way to go Akram. Have fun at Donuts ! It is ICANN’s loss and Donut’s gain.

    • Lee says:

      I guess if you look at recent activities Akram has been entangled in during his tenure at ICANN, the investigation into community priority evaluations is one area where eyebrows may be raised around conflict of interest. Many have criticized the shortcomings of the investigation that ICANN org leadership orchestrated and Donuts seems to have benefited from the outcome by having a few of their contention hopes kept alive. It will be interesting to see how this move further impacts Donuts.

  3. Antony Van Couvering says:

    I’m not sure what conflict there would be either. If ICANN is piloting its ship properly, things follow procedures and everyone is treated equally.

    If it’s not, that’s a very different problem.

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