Earthlink CEO Dies

Charles “Garry” Betty, president and CEO of the Internet Service Provider Earthlink, died on Tuesday from cancer. He was 49 years old.

Betty stepped down from Earthlink in late November after his cancer diagnosis. At the time, it was reported he would be on a leave of absence of undetermined length.

Mike Lunsford, vice president of voice and access services, was appointed interim CEO. Earthlink , in announcing Betty’s passing, also said Lunsford will remain in his interim capacity until a permanent CEO can be found.

When Betty joined EarthLink in 1996, it was a two-year-old startup ISP based in southern California offering dial-up Internet access to 500,000 subscribers. Since then, through growth and mergers, Earthlink has become the largest pure ISP play, with more than 5 million subscribers.

“Garry was an extraordinary business partner and friend, and he will be sorely missed,” said Sky Dayton, founder of EarthLink and CEO of mobile provider Helio in a statement released today. “Garry was at once the general you wanted at your side in battle and the friend you wanted to celebrate with when the war was won. Garry accomplished so much and made life better for so many people, that as we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his achievements. Our thoughts and prayers are with Garry’s wife, Kathy, and the rest of his family.”

“We are greatly saddened by today’s news,” said Robert M. Kavner, chairman of EarthLink’s Board of Directors in a statement. “Garry was instrumental in building EarthLink into the company it is today. He leaves behind a tremendous record of achievement and an accomplished management team committed to pursuing his strategic vision.”

Betty had numerous accomplishments in his relatively short career. He graduated in 1979 with a degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, but would instead work on technology at IBM.

He would be given the IBM President’s award in 1982 for his work on the original IBM PC, the computer that helped kick off the personal computer revolution.

Betty would later become president and CEO of Digital Communications Associates, Inc. (DCA), and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, the youngest executive ever to head up the Exchange.

Betty is survived by his wife and family. A tribute site has been set up for him.

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