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ICANN spills beans on Marby’s million-dollar payday

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN appears to have increased its transparency when it comes to executive pay, at least when it comes to the CEO.

Göran Marby was revealed earlier this year to have banked more than $1 million in ICANN’s fiscal 2020, and he received another 5% boost at a board meeting this February.

Six months later, the board of directors has finally approved the minutes of that meeting, and for the first time it actually minutes the meeting, revealing the contents of the discussion and the names of the three dissenting directors.

In the past, minutes of decisions involving pay typically just restate the resolution and rationale with no additional context. They don’t usually even reveal the vote tally.

According to the minutes, there was some debate about the method used to determine how much Marby should be paid.

ICANN’s longstanding policy has to offer executive pay within the “50% and 75% percentile of comparable position salaries” in the general for-profit industries, high-tech industry, and non-profits.

What often bothers ICANN watchers, and bothered some directors in February, is how these three comparable industries are mixed and weighted when figuring out how much an ICANN employee is worth.

If high-tech is given more weight, that would pull in the direction of a higher salary. If non-profits were weighted more, that would pull in the opposite direction.

According to the minutes, Avri Doria raised this issue in February, suggesting that non-profit salaries should be more influential in the mix, when future CEOs are selected.

Chair Maarten Botterman said in the minutes that the blend of comparisons doesn’t really matter all that much because Marby’s compensation is “well below” the percentile threshold ICANN has set itself, regardless of the mix.

The discussion continued:

Nigel Roberts noted that looking at sectors other than non-profit is important because while ICANN might not be a big commercial company, it is certainly in competition with those companies for executive leadership candidates and that he believes ICANN needs to compensate well because of that. Becky Burr similarly noted that it is important to understand from where ICANN is drawing its leadership so that the compensation can be competitive, while also acknowledging that the compensation level under discussion is below the target range.

The problem with these arguments is that Marby was not hired from any of the three sectors ICANN uses for comparison.

While he has a background in tech, he was a telecoms regulator on a government salary in Sweden when he applied for the ICANN gig. He’s being paid more than his predecessors who did come directly from high-tech.

The minutes go on to note that director Ihab Osman pointed out that Marby gets paid more than the secretary-general of the United Nations and the CEO of the American Red Cross.

He wondered aloud whether the skill set of an ICANN CEO is the same as a high-tech CEO, while director Mandla Msimang questioned whether ICANN’s revenue should play a factor in setting compensation.

Osman also noted the potentially poor optics of giving Marby a big pay rise in the midst of a pandemic.

When it came to a vote, Doria, Osman and Msimang all voted against the 5% pay increase, but the remaining 11 directors voted in favor. Marby and Ron Da Silva were not present for the discussion.

ICANN CEO is first to get paid over $1,000,000 a year

Kevin Murphy, May 12, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Göran Marby was paid over a million bucks out of the domain-buying public’s pocket in the org’s fiscal 2020, newly released tax documents show.

He’s now, I believe, the best-paid CEO ICANN’s ever had and the first to make more than $1 million per year in the role.

ICANN’s FY20 tax return, which covers the year to June 30, 2020, discloses Marby’s total reportable compensation as $991,557, with another $67,665 in estimated additional compensation, making a total of $1,059,222.

That’s an increase of $193,652 over the $865,570 he received in FY19.

Marby’s been making more than immediate predecessor Fadi Chehadé for a few years, but now he’s also overtaken Rod Beckstrom, who made $961,672 in 2012, his last full year on the job.

Neither Beckstrom nor his predecessor Paul Twomey ever quite made it into seven figures.

This February, ICANN’s board of directors voted to give Marby another 5% pay raise, though a few directors voted against the package.

ICANN’s form 990 tax releases also disclose salaries for another 36 senior staff and board members, showing 19 of them get paid more than $300,000 a year.

Five, including Marby, made over half a million, though a few of those are no longer with the organization.

General counsel John Jeffrey, the second-biggest earner, now has total compensation of $709,784, compared to the $314,628 he was getting 10 years ago when he was in exactly the same job.

ICANN chief gets $100k bonus

Kevin Murphy, January 21, 2019, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Goran Marby has been awarded almost $100,000 of his annual bonus.

The ICANN board of directors last week voted to approve the first half of his fiscal year 2019 “at risk compensation”, what ICANN calls the discretionary, performance-driven part of its executive compensation packages.

Marby’s salary is $653,846.17 per annum, and the at-risk component is an additional 30% of that. Half of the bonus comes to just over $98,000.

His base pay is about $23,000 more than immediate predecessor Fadi Chehade, but considerably less than two-CEOs-ago Rod Beckstrom, who took home $750,000 and, if it was paid, $195,000 in bonuses.

While at-risk compensation is based on predetermined goals, these goals are not typically made public.

ICANN salaries are based on paying between the 50th and 75th percentile of average wages across the high-tech, non-profit and general industry.