Like a bolt from the blue, ICANN has announced that new generic Top Level Domain guru Kurt Pritz, officially known as Chief Strategy Officer, is resigning due to a conflict of interest.
In a letter to the ICANN community, the new CEO and president Fadi Chehadé wrote “regretfully … I have accepted the resignation of Kurt Pritz, who has served most recently as ICANN’s Chief Strategy Officer.”
“Kurt has submitted his resignation because of a recently identified conflict of interest, which he immediately communicated to ICANN. After analysing this conflict of interest, we decided that a change in Kurt’s role within ICANN would be appropriate. Kurt decided to resign his position and role as an officer of ICANN, to best serve the interests of the organisation. Kurt will be engaged as a subject matter expert where needed, but will have no access to new gTLD applicant information nor will he play a role in the new gTLD programme.”
What the conflict of interest is has, so far, been a tightly kept secret. But it has certainly shocked the ICANN community with seemingly no hint that this was coming.
Pritz has been the person ICANN went to when there was a problem, and was handed direct oversight of the entire new gTLD programme in June after then new gTLD Program Director Michael Salazar resigned after the failure of the digital archery method of choosing the order in which new gTLD applications would be processed and before that in April, when the system for applying for new gTLDs was overcome with a glitch and led to applications being suspended.
To date, both ICANN and Kurt Pritz have declined to comment further, according to a Domain Incite report, but that “Chehade disclosed that Pritz’s conflict was of a ‘personal’, rather than professional, nature” during a meeting discussing the Trademark Clearinghouse at ICANN’s LA offices.