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Nominet chair eats humble pie to stave off mass board cull

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2021, 17:12:04 (UTC), Domain Registries

Nominet’s board of directors has outlined a series of changes it plans to make, including freezing its own pay and .uk domain prices, in an effort to avoid a member move to fire half the board, including the CEO and chair.

They’re also going to bring back the late, lamented member discussion forums.

Chair Mark Wood today wrote that Nominet plans to increase the amount of revenue it gives to “public benefit” purposes, which he said will hit £4 million by June, double last year’s amount.

After 2021, the company will donate 10% if its annual revenue to these causes, he said. That would be roughly £4.5 million a year, based on 2020 revenues, and roughly in line with 2015 levels, when the current senior management took over.

He went on to say that .uk registry fees will be frozen for two years. The last price increase went into effect last year after staying in place for four years.

The board won’t bump up its own salaries for two years either, Wood wrote.

The letter is in response to the member-driven move to fire Wood, CEO Russell Haworth, and three other members of the board, over what they see as mismanagement of the company. Currently, 13.6% of member votes — 196 registrars and individuals — have backed an Extraordinary General Meeting to hold this vote. This may be sufficient to successfully oust the targeted directors.

Among the demands of, initiated by Krystal Hosting, are an increased focus on public benefit causes, lower prices, improved member communications and a reversal of Nominet’s policy of diversification into non-registry services.

Wood thinks the EGM effort is foolhardy, however. He wrote:

Whatever the intention, the EGM proposal destabilises the organisation and, as a result, is not in the interest of members, registrars or registrants. If the EGM initiative achieves its aims, it will leave the company leaderless and facing an exodus of the highly-skilled staff we depend on to maintain the highly complex registry service we provide. It will erode trust and confidence in .UK, which is part of critical national infrastructure, and put Nominet’s independence at risk.

He’s proposing increased transparency of the cyber-security division, a new Registry Advisory Council, and new communication tools for members, including the launch of a “a well-governed next-generation member forum”.

The old forum was shut down last year, and announced (some members think with a certain amount of glee) by Haworth during Nominet’s Annual General Meeting. The forum was overly hostile to Nominet staff, he said at the time.

Wood now says “the decision to close the Nominet Forum, and the way in which this was done, damaged our relationship with some members in a way we had not intended.”

It’s quite a list of concessions from a board that clearly knows it’s on the ropes, but whether it’s enough to change the minds of large enough number of members remains to be seen.

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