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Here’s why two ICANN directors opposed extending Marby’s CEO contract

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2021, 20:53:18 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Göran Marby’s personality came into question when the organization’s board of directors voted to prematurely extend his contract last year, it emerged this evening.

Back in October, the board voted to add two years to Marby’s current contract, which had been due to expire May 23, 2022, saying it would help with continuity and provide a “sense of calm” at the org.

But one director voted against the extension, and another abstained. Today, with the publications of the October 7 meeting’s minutes, we found out the whos and and whys.

Ihab Osman was the director who voted against the deal, telling the rest of the board that there should have been a formal review and plan to address Marby’s “communications style”, which has apparently come in for criticism.

He added that there should have been a global search for a CEO after Marby’s first six years (that is, in 2022). The minutes read:

Ihab stated that the decision to extend the President and CEO’s contract was taken without, in his view, a formalized professional performance review process reflecting on the past four years of the CEO’s service. He stated that he believed that not doing so was inconsistent with best practices for an organization of the size and importance as ICANN. Ihab noted that comments had been expressed about the CEO’s communication style and did not believe there was a formal plan to work on this issue. Ihab stated his belief that extending a contract that has two years before it is completed is premature, noting that organizations generally benefit from a global search for a CEO after a six-year tenure.

Osman is a Sudanese businessman who currently lists his employers as Saudi agricultural company NADEC and the US-Sudan Business Council.

The director who abstained from the vote was Mandla Msimang. She had procedural concerns, saying that the decision should have been subject to more input from other stakeholders. The minutes read:

Mandla explained that her abstention is not a reflection on the President and CEO. Mandla indicated that she abstained from voting because she did not agree with the process that has been followed to arrive at the decision. Mandla noted that she believes the process lacked a performance-based approach and lacked a more extensive input from key stakeholders, namely the org staff and the community.

South African Msimang is CEO of Nozala Investments, an investment vehicle focused on female-owned businesses.

Both she and Osman are Nominating Committee appointees whose first three-year terms on the ICANN board end in 2022.

While the minutes do not elaborate on the apparent criticisms of Marby’s “communications style”, it’s probably fair to say he’s a bit more confrontational and abrasive when compared to his predecessors.

Fadi Chehadé sometimes came across like a used-car salesman hiding behind a dubious veil of servile humility; Rod Beckstrom had baffling New Age hippy tendencies and often appeared out of his depth when it came to the minutiae of ICANN’s function.

As for Marby’s style… what do you think? Answers in the comments or privately to the usual address.

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Comments (5)

  1. Best CEO ICANN had ever had, by FAR! No one is perfect and it’s a pretty bizarre job but my experience with Twomy (incoherent), Beckstrom(bombastic and ineffective) and Chehadé (disingenuous), suggests he’s the best we’ve had or are likely to find. Just my two cents.

  2. Seun Ojedeji says:

    Comparing CEOs in this manner may not be appropriate, people are different and circumstances with which each CEO lead the organisation differ hence challenges are different.

    However processes needs to be respected, I trust that the ICANN Board would put due consideration to the critical comments of their colleagues by improving the appraisal process of the CEO. There is always room for improvement and this is an opportunity to do so.

    Congratulations to the CEO for the renewal of his contract while I wish him all the best.

  3. Paul Twomey says:

    Thanks Jonathan 🙂

    But you and Seun are right – it is a a demanding and pretty bizarre job where challenges change over time. It is certainly different now to what it was 11-17 years ago

    • Aw Paul, you’ll always be my first! I didn’t really mean to start something here but sometimes I speak/write before thinking. The organization, and therefore its CEOs, has always been a challenge. I’ve been railing on for 15 years about ICANN accountability, as you know. I vividly recall meetings you and I had about the “moving of goalposts,” that I believed didn’t exist in the first place. Now, when we finally have hard fought accountability mechanisms in place, the first chance to test them ( PIR), the communitynchose to circumvent them. Sigh. So you really cannot blame the CEO for everything. Marby introduced Kanelbullar, though. How is ANYONE supposed to.compete with THAT?!

  4. Vanda Scartezini says:

    I my opinion there is not questionable the Giran’s communication style. He from the beginning said he is not a show man. He is done a good job from my view from the community. Ihab may has a point asking for a professional performance evaluation.

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