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The looooong road to urgently hiring ICANN’s next CEO

Kevin Murphy, June 26, 2023, 16:54:25 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN expects to appoint its next CEO about a year from now, up to 18 months after Göran Marby quit, despite impressing on job-hunters the need to act with speed or risk ICANN’s very existence.

After about 16 “listening sessions” with pretty much every part of the ICANN community over the last three months, the board of directors has approved a 10-page job description for the role.

The document pretty much prays for the Second Coming, at one point calling for a “servant leader” — an oxymoron arguably originating with the words of Jesus H Christ Himself and recently echoed by King Charles III during his coronation.

The new boss will have to be a global visionary with reams of experience managing large, big-budget technical organizations; an impeccably ethical open book; an international diplomat; a compassionate, empathetic nerd; a consensus-building polyglot; a disinterested ICANN insider.

The job description acknowledges that “few, if any” candidates will tick all the boxes, but it’s still setting itself a pretty high bar.

The fact that it takes half a year to write a job ad for a role that’s already been held by nine people over the last quarter century is baffling enough, but the recruitment process itself hasn’t even started yet.

ICANN now says it will put out a request for proposals for executive recruitment companies to manage the hiring process. It doesn’t expect to start interviewing candidates until the start of next year.

The actual appointment should come in the second quarter 2024, ICANN says. Whether the next chief will be available to start immediately is of course unknowable. In the meantime, interim CEO Sally Costerton will carry on filling the role.

You might expect the hiring process to get faster as ICANN gets older, better-resourced and more experienced, but it’s actually months slower than on the last few occasions a new CEO has been sought.

It was 10 months between Rod Beckstrom announcing he was quitting in 2011 and Fadi Chehadé being named heir apparent. After he announced he was out in 2015, it was nine months before Marby was crowned.

We’re now looking at potentially twice as long a runway between CEOs, and a job description that unironically calls for leadership amidst a “rapidly evolving” governance space, addressing the “the need to ‘get things done'” and ICANN’s need to “act with urgency” to manage emerging technological threats that could Balkanize the namespace and threaten ICANN’s very raison d’etre.


Comments (2)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Actually, most ICANN CEO successions I followed appeared to look for someone that wasn’t like the previous CEO. So ICANN taking the time and effort to find what is needed in the job, instead of comparing to the previous one, is a beginning.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      The focus on proactive government engagement and “getting stuff done” in general suggests that ICANN is still very much looking for somebody unlike the last guy.

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