back to article Faced with the sack, Nominet CEO half-apologizes for taking the 'wrong tone,' asks angry members to hear him out

CEO of .uk registry operator Nominet has pleaded with the organisation’s members to hear him out before they consider backing a campaign to fire both him and other non-elected members of the board. In an open letter to the domain-name community, Nominet's CEO Russell Haworth acknowledged that he had used the “wrong tone” in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not in the internet industry, just a standard nerd who likes the Reg's take on tech news... but I admire the support that's been given to this campaign. Too many times, large corporations or powerful CEO's get to s**** on ordinary people and get away with it, slowly eroding established truths or fairness and balance in society.

    If you're looking for a publication doing similar work, the BMJ's editorial team seem to be the one tiny publication trying to hold the UK government to account for the failing pandemic response (google 'social murder'). I miss the days when big newspapers led the charge on major issues like this, now we rely on independent sources like yourselves to fight the good fight.

    Know that your work does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      The big papers do charge, but they do it so constantly it can feel like they're throwing mud at a wall to see what sticks. I agree that the in-depth, single-issue crusades tend to come from the little guys. Well played, El Reg.

      I'm also not in the industry, but have been following this increasingly closely. I believe anyone can become a member of Nominet, presumably with voting rights. It's £400 signup and £100pa. Recent insurrections against the Tories (from the right) and Labour (from the left) have shown what can be achieved when people join a group with the sole purpose of exercising their vote to change it. Just a thought.

    2. N2 Silver badge
      Pint

      Pint

      Sir,

      Sadly so true and very well said.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's already had his chance to be heard and put forward his vision for Nominet.

    Vote him out.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Strategic advice to Mr Haworth

      He's going down. Better to resign right now instead of waiting to walk the plank.

      1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

        Re: Strategic advice to Mr Haworth

        The question that needs to be asked is. How incompetent do you need to be, to so badly fuck up a monopoly? Answers on the back of a CEO's payslip please.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Strategic advice to Mr Haworth

          To completely and thoroughly describe that level of incompetence, I need a blank phone book. And even at that size, it will have to be typed in 3pt.

  3. AW-S

    Too little, too late

    He should have offered his resignation weeks ago - allowing him to leave to some extent on his own terms. Now he needs to be kicked out asap.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Too little, too late

      This!

      Far too little, far too late.

      Funny how the prospect of losing his cushy little dictatorship has suddenly focused his attention on the need to communicate yet it was fine and dandy to close down the mechanism that was previously used.

      As others have said - Nominet exists for two purposes only. Run a domain registrar and give back to the community/charity.

      Anything and everything outside of that mandate is not only a distraction, but has been proven time and again that there are other companies already doing these other services better. Or that they're simply not needed.

      And perhaps it is bias on my part but even his "apology" seems to drip with insincerity.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Too little, too late

        And perhaps it is bias on my part but even his "apology" seems to drip with insincerity.

        He sincerely regrets having to face the music (of his own making).

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Too little, too late

          He took the wrong tone. He was aiming for "arrogantly dismissive", but slipped into "spoiled taunting". It's an easy mistake to make.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Too little, too late

            It is also a very stupid mistake, "arrogantly dismissive" is insulting while "spoiled taunting" indicates a child, not to be taken seriously and easily corrected by any responsible adult.

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: Too little, too late

      Indeed his resignation may have saved the rest of the board, but his reluctance to release the reins means the rest of the board will likely be kicked out along with him.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    An arrogant, autocratic bully, I hope the members organise the EGM as quickly as possible and dismiss Haworth.

    I just hope he hasn't engineered a huge severance package for himself, he has cost Nominet enough.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Step 1 - vote the useless tosser out

      Step 2 - call in forensic accountants to look for any possible reason to sue for any severance pay

      Step 3 - profit!

      No underpants were harmed in this business strategy

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        No underpants were harmed in this business strategy

        O? I am pretty certain Russell Haworth has suffered an Urgent Underwear Replacement experience by now and in my opinion that counts as harm to those underpants.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I doubt it. I'm sure he's already richer than most. Maybe he'll have to delay that second yacht, but he's hardly going to be starving...

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            but he's hardly going to be starving

            Until a good claw back action is started.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        First on the list: Using company money to pay a third party to threaten those who highlighted that he accidentally published his passport online (while not reporting Nominet or said third party for having done the actual publishing).

  5. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4
    Thumb Down

    Not exactly rocket surgery

    "promised to produce “a realistic, pragmatic assessment of the complex landscape we are operating in,”

    Er, you lease domain names. That's it. Don't get ideas above your station.

    1. General Purpose Bronze badge

      Re: Not exactly rocket surgery

      That's so boring, Nominet has a staff retention problem - according to Haworth, anyway.

      "attracting and keeping the best requires a strategy with ambition"

      It's all about the shiny.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not exactly rocket surgery

        In other words he needs a big pay packet to retain him. An easy problem to solve unless you're the only person thinking he needs to be retained.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quite

      I've no idea why he thought a domain registry needed to (or should) "diversify" into other business areas.

      Oh, hang on, the directors could have taken more out if they had managed to back something that worked...

      1. nematoad Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Quite

        "...the directors could have taken more out if they had managed to back something that worked."

        The trouble is, they did take out more but somehow managed to actually shrink the profits and cut the money going to the charitable causes. Whilst at the same time splashing money on complete and utter duds and then voting themselves a nice little pay rise. That added to the arrogance and hubris of the top managers is what this is all about.

      2. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: Quite

        Go see ICAAN sale debacle and Ajit Pai for why. Fortunately that got nuked too. Just need net-neutrality changes there to be rolled back too.

        Money/Greed/Corporate Lobbying....

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    FAIL

    “I’ve had some time to reflect"

    Yeah, just like the guy who got caught red-handed running a red light. You've had the time it took for the police officer to get out of his car and approach you.

    Now you're going to get the ticket. Half-hearted pleas will not save you.

  7. Aaiieeee
    Alert

    He should be outed on principal

    And, if he is truely repentant then stepping down would be a logical (and decent) thing to do.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: He should be outed on principal

      He already has proven (over and over again) he is neither logical nor decent.

  8. Andre Carneiro

    Crocodile tears...

    Actions speak louder than words. And his have been reprehensible.

    Get rid.

  9. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Terminator

    Dont Count your chickens

    I wont pretend to remember the Voting maths from the last article but Im dubious this is a slam dunk already.

    Doesn't the CEO just have to offer a few of the bigger members a sweetener to make it go away?

    I dont want this to happen but the El Reg article sounds like its raising expectations. Never expect a pig to leave a full trough willingly.

    1. Lon24 Silver badge

      Re: Dont Count your chickens

      Yep - I was reading in a reason why the Big 5 haven't spoken so far. Logically Russell is in real negotiations with them while pretending to placate the rest of us. If he succeeds (and the fact he hasn't resigned is because he thinks he can) this will stink so high. In practice it will demonstrate that the UK brand is controlled by entities who in serving their stakeholders will not be acting in the interests of the UK internet industry.

      In normal times this would be questioned by parliament. But it ain't normal times.

      A Nominet Member

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Dont Count your chickens

        But those Big 5 will have to tread carefully, some of their customers may decide enough is enough and switch to another, hurting them twice. Once in diminished revenue and once in diminished influence, where the voting power they lose goes to the competition.

        1. Richard Cranium

          Re: Dont Count your chickens

          "some of their customers may decide enough is enough and switch to another"

          IMHO very doubtful.

          I assume many registrants only hold a handful of names, most probably just one or two. They are probably not aware of this issue and may not have the technical nous or financial incentive to shift if they do.

          Imagine a micro-business has not just paid over the odds for registration and "Domain Ownership Protection" (£24 combined) through 123reg but have also signed up to their email and hosting deals. Moving will be a major PITA just to register dissatisfaction with some guy at an organisation they are barely aware of.

          I'm happy to place a substantial bet that Haworth will find a way to incentivise a small number of those with large voting influence to vote down the proposal to replace him.

  10. msknight Silver badge

    Calls for a reasonable debate?

    How can you have a reasonable debate when the whole reason for the debate is that one side of that debate has not been reasonable for a long time and even despite the current situation, continues to be so.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Calls for a reasonable debate?

      The last few years were time enough for debate. 'Reasonable mutually agreed outcome' has now departed for sunnier climes and the downtrodden users are at the pitchfork wielding stage.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Flame

        Re: Calls for a reasonable debate?

        You forgot the flaming torches!

        Schoolboy error there. Mob's got to have its flaming torches, so the mad professor can’t escape from the castle by a secret tunnel.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    he had used the “wrong tone”

    If, IF he gets booted out, I expect him to be nominated to a cushy bullshit position at the track and trace or straight to the position of a junior minister. He's already got great, great track record to prove he's suitable :(

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, about that Nominet canvasing....

    Looks like they've still not learnt their lesson, as Nominet staff have apparently been calling members to ask them to oppose the EGM motions. Nominet staff should not be canvasing on behalf of directors personal interests, and this is exactly why members want the current lot out. Nominet is not their person property or play thing for the benefit of them.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Wrong tone

    Translation: I've discovered the limits of what I can get away with.

  14. Lon24 Silver badge

    Another letter

    Just received. The board's view:

    "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. "

    Two points there.

    1) The replacement by two vastly more experienced and knowledgeable members - one of whom has held a far more important posts in British Public Service would make it leaderless? Is this a joke?

    2) Success will mean the exodus of highly-skilled operational staff leading to a degradation in registry function. Is this true? If so then let them come out and reveal themselves. What have they to fear if they would leave anyway. Let's get a measure of this threat not a vague assertion.

    Finally:

    "I welcome a good, robust debate on all these points, conducted in the right way. "

    Do you mean in a Nominet Members Forum? Oh, wait. Or an independent forum where neither side can determine what's 'the right way'? Till then El Reg will just have to do.

    A Nominet Member

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: Another letter

      "...it will leave the company leaderless... "

      Well with the leadership that is currently in place maybe that would be a good thing.

      "It will erode trust and confidence in .UK, "

      No, I think that that job has already been done by the above mentioned "leadership".

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Another letter

      "Just received. The board's view:"

      Whenever you see something like this, you know they're panicking. This is not the kindd of thing a safe and stable board would send out

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I welcome a good, robust debate on all these points, conducted in the right way. "

    That says it all.

    Probably means

    "Lets chat whilst we work out how to change the rules so you can't vote us out"

    Get rid, can't see why the staff would leave, probably all give a big sigh of relief.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Get rid, can't see why the staff would leave, probably all give a big sigh of relief.

      I can see, but those will only be competent at brown nosing.

      1. Jonathon Green

        Actually I imagine it will be those members of staff currently engaged in gardening in that “complex landscape” which has been magicked into existence by the current board, and that if they do walk then there will be no impact at all on the core services Nominet is actually supposed to be providing to its membership...

  16. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    CEO of .uk registry operator Nominet has pleaded with the organisation’s members to hear him out before they consider backing a campaign to fire both him and other non-elected members of the board.

    They will listen as carefully to him as he listened to them (not at all).

  17. s. pam
    Megaphone

    What a load of 'blocks

    I've grown past tired with the Nominet CEO and a number of the members who operate with a swagger unlike a drunk with a gun. Given the last several years, I have dropped all contributions of my time to them and now have a junk filter on my email to avoid the idiocy.

    It was somewhat inevitable however the utter shitestorm seems never ending with the lot of them.

    Should have all resigned quite some time ago.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What a load of 'blocks

      "Should have all resigned quite some time ago."

      Should hang on for the vote.

  18. jonathan keith Silver badge
    Go

    Fuck him and the rest of the board

    They've had plenty of opportunities over the years to behave decently, but they haven't. Only now, when it looks like the jig is up and the panic's setting in, do they start to even consider the grievances they have created. Sorry pal, but if you break the camel you pay for it.

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What regulation applies to them apart from Companies House?. Are they under Ofcom and if not why not? As a non-profit are they under the Charities Commission? If they can win the vote then they would probably be clear as far Companies House are concerned but otherwise if one of the others has authority then they should be taking an interest. Maybe the Ministry of Fun, AKA the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport should also be taking an interest.

    1. cipnt

      You would think that such a vital infrastructure that holds a natural monopoly (similar to openreach, national grid, water companies) would be regulated by Ofcom, but no...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is that the same Companies House that doesn't check any of the paperwork when a new company is registered and does nothing about the crooks and kleptocrats who use dodgy UK companies for money laundering? Or is it some other Companies House you had in mind?

      The authorities did fuck all when Thomas Cook, Debenhams, Top Shop, etc went bust. Nobody's been prosecuted for the decade of fraud at HBOS and RBS. Bribery in various middle east arms deals has been ignored. If the authorities didn't take action in these cases of serious wrongdoing, what makes you think they'll intervene in Nominet's latest governance squabble?

      The Charities Commission oversees registered charities. Nominet has shut down theirs. There are lots of non-for-profit organisations which aren't charities - building societies, museums, trade associations, theatres, housing associations, universities and so on. Some of these might have a charitable arm to collect tax-friendly donations.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      The problem with nominet and the other ccTLDs is that TECHNICALLY they operate "on behalf of" the government which owns the two-letter code

      in practice virtually every one has been turned into a cash-cow fiefdom and governments are clueless to step in

      CMA should be supervisaing, not Ofcom

  20. N2 Silver badge
    Flame

    Witchfinder general, assemble the following

    Ducking stool

    Angry mob

    Large pile of wood for icon>

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Witchfinder general, assemble the following

      The name Agness Nutter came to mind. I wonder if his prophecies will turn out any better...

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Witchfinder general, assemble the following

        Better? Nutter's were nice and accurate.

  21. heyrick Silver badge

    I hope you’ll give us a chance to communicate our plans and perspective

    Uh, wasn't that kind of your job definition?

    You've failed, miserably.

    Don't slam the door on your way out.

  22. yetanotheraoc

    "complex landscape"

    I don't know anything about Nominet beyond what I read in The Register, but will note that making simple things complex is the hallmark of the long con.

    The reason why Mr. Haworth would be put out by being put out, is simply that he wasn't given time to properly pack his parachute. No matter how you spin it, being evicted by an EGM will not be an adornment on his résumé.

    1. Fred Dibnah
      Pint

      Re: "complex landscape"

      There's no need to worry too much about his future career prospects. I'd bet anyone a pint that he'll fail upwards - people like him always do.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "complex landscape"

        This is the ptroblem, and those around him will follow (sometimes to head ICANN)

  23. dieseltaylor

    Patterns repeating themselves ?

    I applaud theRegister's ability to shine the light on dubious doings.

    This case has some similarities with Which? the trading arm of the charity [and limited company] the Consumers' Association which under a major deviation in the 2010's when the executive board of Which? lead by multimillionarre Mike Clasper headed the organisation to investing in two new companies that lost £40m of effectively charity money. Paying four members of staff a bonus of £2.24m did seem a trifle off also - especially as the CEO's salary had risen from £120K a year to averaging over £400K.

    It is actually in the Companies Act that the data should be in the form requested by the applicant - data or print. I asked the Consumers Association Ltd for data, was given the passowrd for the data, and then received hundreds of pages of A3 in tiny print. It took the threat of legal action to get the excel file of the Members details.

    Subscribers [600k]are not necessarily members. In fact from 40K members in the 1990's it is now down to around 6K following a deliberate no recruitment policy. After all who wants lots of Members to receive the Accounts and see what is going on !?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Patterns repeating themselves ?

      "In fact from 40K members in the 1990's it is now down to around 6K following a deliberate no recruitment policy. "

      A lot like the conservative party then (down from 4 million in 1948 to less than 60k now)

      1. dieseltaylor

        Re: Patterns repeating themselves ?

        And look what happens when you have a small unsuspecting base and unsavoury types smell power. centralise the choice of candidates to make sure the right type get the seats ....

  24. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Echoes of Domainz

    For those with long memories

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