Has ICANN already fired Rod Beckstrom?

It is no secret that there is significant disquiet over the performance of ICANN's CEO Rod Beckstrom.

Beckstrom has presided over one disaster after another: from telling governments that the domain name system was under constant attack and may not be robust enough; to publicly calling out ITU and government representatives over IPv6 allocations at a packed international meeting; to telling an independent review team in ICANN that he may ignore their work before they had even begun it; to jumping on a plane to a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Middle East while his Board held a crucial meeting over new Internet extensions; the list goes on and on.

But it is over his presidential style (much more spider than starfish, as readers of his co-written book will know) that Beckstrom has picked up most criticism.


The World Wide Web may say goodbye to its overseeing spider

He has been responsible for the loss of almost the entire ICANN senior management team (some edged out; some running for the door). That, combined with a number of highly dubious hires (which include a weight loss guru, an out-dated cryptography expert, a high-profile former hacker and a spiritual adviser), a skyrocketing personnel bill (which hasn't been explained), a long list of vacant posts for key positions, and a general sense that the CEO doesn't understand the subject matter or the organization he is supposed to be leading, has led to both private and public calls for him to go.

That discomfort came to a head at ICANN's meeting in San Francisco in March when a former staffer used the public forum to outline what she said she felt was a "vast hollowing out of expertise of relationships, of institutional memory, and of goodwill of this organization". It was met with sustained applause.

Fast-forward one month from that debacle and the Board at a special meeting on 21 April passed two resolutions on a 'Confidential Personnel Matter' that are still confidential. Not only that but they were passed in 'executive session', which typically means only voting members of the Board and no staff.

This was the resolution:

In Executive Session, the Board passed two related resolutions (2011.04.21.C01, 2011.04.21.C02) that shall remain confidential as an "action relating to personnel or employment matters", pursuant to Article III, section 5.2 of the ICANN Bylaws.

There was some speculation at the time over what the resolution covered. It may be the loss of more staff - such as registry expert Craig Schwartz to the dot-bank initiative - or the issue of staff compensation that has has been the focus of serious concern.

But then we hear that in the lead-up to the Singapore meeting next week, Beckstrom has been approaching his own Board members and asking for letters of recommendation.

That is no doubt related to the fact that his contract is up for renewal this month. Pulled together, it now looks increasingly likely that Board resolutions 2011.04.21.C01 and 2011.04.21.C02 will turn out to have been votes of no confidence in their CEO.

All of which may make for an eventful Singapore meeting, combined as it is with the replacement of the organization's chairman, whose two terms are up, and the probable approval of the Applicant Guidebook.

If we're right, and the ICANN Board has already effectively fired its CEO, we will expect to see a vainglorious Beckstrom take the stage at ICANN's next meeting in Dakar in October to announce his decision to leave.

He will most likely get a standing ovation - but not for the reason he thinks.