Mozilla Names Beard as Interim CEO After Upheaval

Mozilla Corp. named Chris Beard as interim chief executive officer to replace Brendan Eich, who stepped down after being criticized for donating money to an anti-gay marriage group.

Beard is an executive in residence at venture-firm Greylock Partners and previously served as marketing chief at Mozilla, maker of the Firefox Web browser.

Eich’s resignation earlier this month exposed a rift in Silicon valley between support for left-leaning issues and advocacy of unrestricted freedom of expression. Beard, who will also join Mozilla as a director, has been involved with the group since it shipped the first Firefox browser.

“Chris has one of the clearest visions of how to take the Mozilla mission and turn it into programs and activities and product ideas that I have ever seen,” Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla, said in a statement on Mozilla’s blog today.

The appointment isn’t the only link between Mozilla and Greylock. John Lilly, a Greylock partner, was previously CEO of Mozilla. Lilly was also one of three board members who resigned when Eich was named CEO on March 24. Eich stepped down less than two weeks after taking the CEO post, after being criticized for donating $1,000 to group that favored a ballot proposition in California to ban gay marriage. While the proposition passed, it was later ruled unconstitutional.

Justin O’Kelly, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Mozilla, declined to make Beard available for an interview.

Leadership Transition

“Given his enormous contributions at Mozilla since 2004, it’s no surprise at all that they wanted to bring him back in,” Lilly wrote in an e-mail, referring to Beard.

Beard is also a strong candidate to become Mozilla’s CEO on a permanent basis, Baker said in the statement.

Mozilla’s board was smart to name an interim CEO to guide the company in the aftermath of Eich’s resignation, said Irina Raicu, who runs the Internet Ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

“The new CEO’s challenge will be to refocus on the mission on providing that open alternative to other big Internet companies,” Raicu said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Burrows in San Francisco at pburrows@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net Reed Stevenson, James Callan

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