RealTime IT News

EarthLink Plays Musical Chairmen

EarthLink, Inc. Thursday named Sky Dayton as chairman of the board assuming the role held by Charles Brewer.

Dayton is considered one of the Internet industry's great visionaries, and EarthLink is happy to have him return to the helm. But can the EarthLink founder translate his innovative roots to fill the MindSpring founder's passion for excellence in customer service?

Both EarthLink and MindSpring were founded in 1994. While Dayton infused EarthLink with technical innovations, Brewer established MindSpring after being frustrated and unimpressed with the Internet services available at the time.

For MindSpring, excellent service and support were the cornerstones of a successful business model, a philosophy that EarthLink built into its core values when it acquired MindSpring last year.

Brewer's service-centric focus was mimicked by most Internet service provider start-ups in form, if not function. He carries with him a legacy of outstanding customer service rivaled by few access providers.

Prior to founding MindSpring, Brewer served as chief executive of AudioFax, Inc., a software company providing fax server software. Before that, Brewer was vice president of a venture capital firm and also worked in investment banking firm.

Brewer received a BA in Economics from Amherst College and received a Masters in Business Administration from Stanford University.

Last month, Brewer hinted that he may be shifting gears and accepted a seat on the board of Humana, Inc. . EarthLink said Brewer has sold his holdings in EarthLink, of which the company purchased 2.845 million shares as part of its previously announced stock repurchase plan.

Dayton was introduced to computers by his grandfather in 1980 when he was 9 years old. He graduated from the Delphian School, a private boarding high school, in 1988 and decided to forgo college to pursue his interests in cutting-edge computer technology.

After high school, Dayton spent several years managing the computer graphics departments of two-entertainment industry advertising firms. The java-junkie co-founded a popular West Hollywood coffeehouse in 1990. Two years later, while continuing to manage the coffeehouse, he co-founded Dayton Walker Design, a computer graphics boutique catering to clients such as Disney, Universal Pictures and Fox.

In 1993, Sky heard about the Internet and decided to get connected. After spending 80 frustrating hours attempting to configure his computer for Internet access, he concluded there must be a better way. EarthLink was born. Dayton's vision is that the Internet is the next mass medium, and EarthLink is how the mass market will get to it.

When EarthLink picked up MindSpring, Dayton founded eCompanies with Jake Winebaum, the force behind Disney's Web efforts. As an Internet incubator, eCompanies paid a record $7.5 million in 1999 to acquire the much-coveted dot.com domain name in order to compete with companies like idealab! and CMGI, Inc. .

Following that merger, Dayton served on the new EarthLink's board of the directors while co-founding his California- based Internet incubator firm.

Garry Betty, EarthLink chief executive officer, saluted Brewer and said the firm wished him the best in his new ventures.

"Charles founded and led MindSpring to become an industry leader, and he has made significant contributions to the growth strategy of EarthLink since we announced the merger last year," Betty said.

"We are happy to have Sky step in and resume his role as chairman," Betty added. "Since foundin