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GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving is retiring. Here's his favorite moment running the company

  • GoDaddy named operating chief Scott Wagner its new CEO.
  • Current CEO Blake Irving will retire at the end of this year.
  • Irving will remain on the board through June 2018.

GoDaddy named chief operating officer Scott Wagner its new CEO on Tuesday, announcing that current CEO Blake Irving would retire at the end of this year.

Irving, who became CEO in 2012, will remain on the board through June 2018, the company said.

Wagner was on a team that invested early in GoDaddy, and he eventually served as the company's interim CEO, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

GoDaddy doubled revenue and profits during Irving's tenure.

"If I look at the team, the team is absolutely remarkable — I think if I look at what Scott and the rest of the team has done, we can expect much of the same in terms of growth," Irving told CNBC.

Scott Wagner, named new interim CEO of Go Daddy.
Source: Linkedin
Scott Wagner, named new interim CEO of Go Daddy.

GoDaddy, a cloud platform which has 17 million customers, made headlines last week after it decided to cancel the registration of a website called Daily Stormer, which had been associated with a white supremacist rally in Virginia that resulted in one death. After GoDaddy's decision, Google also followed suit and kicked off the site.

Irving said the reaction on the "Twittersphere" has been mostly positive.

"I think what we saw, before and after we took action, was a real appreciation for First Amendment rights, free speech on the internet, and a very tight balance on when you can go too far," Irving said. "Our terms of service is very clear about inciting violence and breaking the law. They went too far, they steeped over the line. We've seen demonstrations that turned into something harmful enough to cause someone's death."

Irving said he expects a major challenge ahead for Silicon Valley will be replacing mass media and mass consumption with more personalized streams of information, while avoiding "filter bubbles."

"It's our duty to protect free speech, to do what we can to make sure the internet is free," Irving said.

No stranger to controversy

Tech industry veteran Irving said with a clear trajectory for GoDaddy ahead, it was time to move on to the next phase of his life. The decision, he said, was unrelated to the recent controversy with the Daily Stormer, joking that he's been trying to spend more time with his wife for a long, long time, but he wanted the company to be in a "perfect" place first.

An alumnus of Yahoo, Microsoft, Compaq and Xerox, Irving ran companies through the dotcom bubble and then some.

But he said the moment that stands out the most was in 2015, when he spoke at the Grace Hopper Conference, the preeminent conference for women in computing. GoDaddy's brand was once synonymous with controversial advertisements with scantily clad women, and Irving is credited with turning the company into a top workplace for women in technology.

In one particularly incensing Super Bowl ad just after Irving became CEO, GoDaddy showcased the "sexy side" of the company — Israeli model Bar Refaeli in a pink dress and heels — and the "smart side" of the company, a male coder with a laptop.

In the past few years, even many of tech's most progressive companies have been pushed to change their treatment of gender. At Google, another "top" company, a former engineer has drawn ire with his criticism of female co-workers. All the while, the Labor Department has challenged Google for more information on pay parity, despite Google's detailed documentation of its diversity practices.

Irving said he went into the 2015 conference knowing he was facing an audience of 12,000 engineers that likely didn't like GoDaddy — in fact, many of the faces in the crowd had explicitly told him so. But Irving said he felt that many people in the crowd ended up as advocates of GoDaddy's transformation, especially transparency around pay parity.

Speaking with the many employees that joined GoDaddy during its explosive expansion was another highlight, Irving said, since he could watch the "great representation" of the company's culture.

Wagner told CNBC that GoDaddy has just scratched the surface of what it could become. He pointed to the company's growing international presence, and newer markets like voice, email and security. The company is also looking to build relationships with its customers, many of whom are small businesses or individuals running websites. Increased connectivity between apps will be another trend Irving expects to see in the industry.

— CNBC's Matthew Belvedere and Reuters contributed to this report.

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