news John Linton, the maverick chief executive of Internet service provider Exetel, has tragically passed away, according to several public notices published by Exetel staff this morning.
“Yesterday my dad was doing what he liked doing best. Eating at a nice restaurant, drinking nice wines, and talking about the state of the telecommunications market in Australia, and the various companies that make this up,” wrote Linton’s son James Linton on John Linton’s popular personal blog early this morning. “At lunch he suffered what was thought to be a mild stroke, and was immediately taken to St Vincent’s hospital. He was conscious in the ambulance, responding to their questions, but when he got to the hospital he had trouble breathing and they needed to put him into a medically induced coma and put him on a ventilator to help him breathe.”
“Unfortunately it turned out to be a very intensive stroke and there was nothing the doctors could do, without killing him in an operation or leaving him severely brain damaged. So last night, with most of my family present, his ventilator was turned off and a few hours later he passed away peacefully.” Exetel director Steve Waddington verified Linton’s untimely passing in a post on his own blog.
John Linton was known in Australia’s technology community both as a successful entrepreneur as well as one of the most outspoken and controversial voices in the industry.
Exetel was formed as a technology consulting company in the early 1990’s but morphed into an ISP in the early years of this decade. Since that time it has grown dramatically to become one of the leading second tier ISPs in Australia, likely fuelling the personal fortunes of Linton, his well-known wife Annette and others associated with the company such as Waddington.
Exetel has recently established offshore call centres to support the company’s growth, and a major focus of Linton’s work in the past several years has been working to ensure those centres provided acceptable levels of customer service. However, Linton’s motivations were not all commercially driven, with Exetel having been a long-time supporter of charities that support the co-existence of Australia’s animal and plant life with its human occupants. Linton’s favourite charity was the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Linton was also known as one of the most outspoken commentators on Australia’s telecommunications industry and has over the past few years vigorously attacked various Federal Government policies such as the National Broadband Network and Internet filtering initiatives. After Exetel was invited to participate in Labor’s Internet filtering trial driven by then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Linton wrote the following satirical entry on his blog:
“We, along with all other ISPs I assume, received the ‘courtesy’ email asking us to visit the fourth Reich’s official sub-site where we could find the details of how to participate in Herr Krudd’s and Obersturmfuhrer Conroy’s scheme to purge the Fatherland of the filth emanating from the diseased brains of the untermenscen.”
The executive similarly described the Attorney-General’s Department’s proposed data retention police as “totally insane”. Over the years, Linton has variously described the NBN as “dreamed up by a total wanker (Krudd)”, “a Field of Dreams”, “Krudd’s NBN2 bankruptcy plan”, “the Krudd NBN2 face-saving plan”, “a monopoly which Telstra will end up controlling” and “the Krudd cover-up known as the NBN2″. Then there was the time Linton sued Telstra — and won, forcing the giant company to publicly apologise to his company.
In his post on his father’s blog, James Linton wrote that the loss was “the saddest day of my life”. “I have lost my dad, my mentor, my boss and one of my best friends,” he added. Waddington added: “I have worked with John for the last 16 years, at four different companies, and been his business partner for the last eight years.”
“We started Exetel with the objective of creating a ‘perfect company’. We faced many challenges, some that would have undoubtedly overwhelmed anyone with less indomitable determination than John. He was the toughest person I think I will ever meet. The most honest person I have ever met, and one of the kindest. But above all he was unique, with the clarity of vision and sharpness of mind that was simply awesome. He has been my manager, my mentor and my friend.”
However, James Linton added, his dad would not want people “fussing over him”.
“He would want to know what we have sold, which was actually one of the last things I said to him. He would also want Exetel to go on as he had planned for it to. He put in a place a strategic plan, so we need to move on as he had wanted us to, and remember him for the great man he was.” James Linton invited well-wishers to make donations to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
A personal note from the author of this article
John Linton and I were cut from the same cloth — we’re both highly opinionated, we held much of the same anti-authoritarian views, and we both loved to satirise authority. We also shared many of the same political views, both being small business owners with a liberatarian bent. This is probably why Delimiter gave Linton’s comments more air than most other Australian technology media outlets over the past several years. And there is no doubt that those articles have been some of the most controversial that we have ever published.
If I look back upon John’s life during the period that I have known him, I think these comments which I wrote about him, in one of the first ever articles published on Delimiter in the week that we launched, best summarise how I feel about the executive:
“There’s no doubt that the Exetel czar’s blog most definitely contains the sort of offensive language you would hear in the Coogee Bay Hotel. And Linton goes too far with his rants on occasion. But ultimately what the blog and John Linton himself represents is the pure, unadulterated voice of the liberal-minded traditional Australian small business owner.
In short, Linton is one of the few people in Australia to honestly and loudly speak the truth about the nation’s telco industry’s business — or at least, the truth as he sees it. This kind of “damn the topedoes” approach is a hallmark of Australian small business. Australians are known for favouring the rebellious underdog — and Australian SMEs love to talk tough and stick it to the giants.
If we are to believe that the NBN will provide wholesale opportunities for more players than just the major ISPs like Telstra, Optus and iiNet, it’s important that those making big decisions listen to unorthodox players like Linton.
That’s why I am going to continue reading Linton’s posts and even responding to them with my own commentary. I like a good rant, I like an executive who isn’t afraid to make his opinion known, and most of all, I like Australia’s telecommunications industry to be a hotbed of debate and competition. We need more unorthodox voices to keep the dialogue from becoming a one-sided chorus.”
I will miss Linton tremendously. One of the most vivid personalities in Australian telecommunications is no longer with us. And a great voice has fallen silent. Vale, John Linton.