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
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
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
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
g EarthLink in 1994, Sky has infused the company with
technical innovation and a passion for great service. While he continues
his ‘day job’ at eCompanies, we look forward to his help in our quest to
make EarthLink the leading Internet Service Provider in the world.”
EarthLink possesses the second largest subscriber base in the U.S., set to
serve more than 4.4 million members after its acquisition of OneMain.com
completed later this year. Dayton will once again be tasked with taking the
ISP to the next level and rival America
, which currently provides Internet
services to more than 23.2 million members.
Dayton said it’s an honor to return to the EarthLink fold because the
future of the firm has never looked brighter.
“I’m incredibly excited at the amazing opportunities in front of us,
including broadband and becoming more deeply involved in the Internet
experience of our members through our software and the EarthLink Personal
Start Page,” Dayton said.
“At the same time, we have more resources at our disposal than ever before,
including a huge war chest of capital, 5,500 of the brightest and most
dedicated employees on Earth, and a thriving member base making us the 2nd
largest ISP in the United States,” Dayton added. “We have the tools to
continue to make EarthLink a major force in the world.”