Another industry luminary has been taken from us. Garry Betty, the former CEO of Earthlink (stepping down last fall because of his health) and long-time industry veteran, died yesterday of liver cancer.
I first met Garry in the mid 1980s, when he was moving up the corporate ladder at Hayes. Back then the company was the leading modem communications vendor. Garry went on to became the CEO at DCA and was able to do good things there.
DCA was one of those companies like Novell that incubated a lot of talented people who went on to run their own companies and have a significant influence in our industry. One of my IT colleagues went to work for him at DCA, and I had lots of ties with the company when I began my journalism career at PC Week, since I covered those products and was very familiar with them.
My favorite Garry story was when a bunch of us were flown up to Remote, Oregon for a DCA/Hayes product launch. At the time, DCA had a rather flamboyant PR manager, Bill Marks, who went on to run Atlanta Olympics PR. Bill was always coming up with gimmicks to get the trades to write about his products, and since he was launching a “remote” product line, it made sense to fly us to this rather, um, remote town. They rented jets to fly us from San Jose, and then we were bussed to this one-half-horse town in the mountains, not too far from where the Kim family got lost.
Well, the product launch went well. Garry was his usual charming self. It was actually a fun trip, because we all did some bonding on the long bus ride through the mountains. There was just one fly in this plan: it was Black Monday, the day the stock market lost more than 20% of its value in one day.
Here we all were in Remote, and this was pretty much in the era prior to cell phones, not that you could get coverage there anyway. There was a single phone line going into the Remote General Store (which was run by a woman who had a sister named Erma, as I recall, a nice coincidence since Irma was the name of the mainstream DCA product line). The executives were desperately trying to unload their stock positions as the market continued to tumble. Garry used to joke that that launch caused him a bunch of money personally.
One of my DCA colleagues writes this about Garry:
We used to joke at DCA about the “revolving door on the President’s office”. After a series of relatively ineffective presidents, during which much of the growth success of the company was due to strong middle management, Garry Betty hit the scene and actually made a positive difference at the CEO level. He quickly won favor among nearly everyone. He showed a lot of personal interest in employees and went out of his way to joke around with them and do a lot of little personal things that won over the hearts of many. He also spent more time with customers than his predecessors, which is important for any company that wishes to grow their customer franchise and revenue.
He also knew how to have a good time. I remember the day that he invited the product management and marketing team for a day out on his big cruiser power boat for a bonding day, drinking beer, swimming, and sun-bathing on a gorgeous day in which we managed to throw him off the boat into the water; as was so typical Garry, he got a laugh out of it.
Cheers, Stephen Kangas