news Departing board director Simon Hackett and other iiNet senior figures have rubbished the idea that the temporary loss of long-time chief executive officer and other senior figures such as Hackett himself from the ISP could lead to innovation dying at the ISP.
iiNet is about to lose three of its most senior executive and board director figures for a substantial amount of time. Hackett himself, who came to iiNet through the acquisition of the ISP he founded, Internode, will shortly depart the company’s board to take up a similar position at the National Broadband Network Company, although he will retain a significant parcel of shares in iiNet.
iiNet chief executive Michael Malone last week signalled plans to take a break of between three to six months from the business he founded in his garage some 20 years ago, with iiNet’s chief financial officer David Buckingham to step in as acting chief executive in his absence.
And long-time iiNet board director Paul Broad, himself a veteran of the ISP industry through his stewardship of AAPT and PowerTel, has also signalled plans to step down from the ISP’s board due to his move to take a position as chief executive of Snowy Hydro.
The moves have led some to speculate that iiNet’s long history of innovation in Australia’s broadband history was to come to a close. The company is known for having helped introduce new technologies such as ADSL2, ADSL2+, consumer IP telephony and IPTV into the Australian industry.
“All up, that’s 3 highly talented director departures (either temporary or permanent) announced by iinet within less than a fortnight – all people with huge relevant experience and terrific track records,” wrote Whirlpool forum poster cable99 last week.
“Are we now heading for a long hiatus in terms of innovation and leading-edge product development from Internode and its parent iiNet? … or is it just that the innovators (SH and MM) have done their time? Perhaps iiNet and Internode have completed their rise from minnows to the mainstream and running the business is now all about satisfying the financial markets (= milking the cash cows), something that innovators/entrepreneurs (think MM and SH) typically don’t excited about?”
However, the comments were immediately rejected by a number of senior iiNet staff. iiNet spokesperson Anthony Fisk pointed out that Malone planned to return to the company he founded 20 years ago, that iiNet had very little board turnover in general, and that iiNet had invested heavily in innovation through its Labs initiative.
“The company group is in extremely safe hands,” added Hackett. “What you are missing – the essential gap in your thesis – is that the company group has thousands of staff, lead extremely ably by a very experienced and effective executive team.”
“Every company at this scale is necessarily a team effort. That team knows how to run the company, they’ve been doing so for a very long time already. That team won’t stop running the company while MM is out climbing mountains.”
Hackett said that although he couldn’t disclose what was discussed, the board, the executive, and other senior staff, recently conducted a “working session going through a number of strategic initiatives that are in the pipeline right now”.
“There is a was a great deal of experience, innovation, and intelligence in that room, and it was all very much in evidence. It was (and is) all very exciting stuff. I see no shortage of innovation and leading-edge product development from the iiNet group for the foreseeable future.”
Hackett said there had been times when iiNet was going through challenging times, “when it would arguably have been vulnerable to increased damage risk had MM not been there holding the levers and helping to right the ship”.
“This is, again, not one of those times,” the Internode founder added.
“Michael Malone is just taking a break after 20 years of pretty much continuously being at the helm, he isn’t leaving. Had I not sold Internode, I would very likely been doing the same thing myself at about this point in time.
I can tell you that neither of us are any less excited about this industry today than we were twenty years ago.”
“In my case, I’m moving on to something pretty damned important and something with reinforcing benefits for everyone in the industry, that involves a (very reluctant, but necessary) departure from the iiNet board in order to pursue it.
Once my mission as NBNCo has run its course then who knows, I could easily be knocking on the door of the iiNet board room to see if they’ll have me back :)”