President and COO Scott Wagner will take over in 2018.

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.
August 22, 2017

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving is retiring at the end of the year, ending what will have been a five-year run in which he successfully oversaw the website hosting company’s initial public offering and helped clean up the public image of a company once known for racy TV ads.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company announced on Tuesday that Scott Wagner, who currently serves as GoDaddy’s president and COO, would take over for Irving when the chief executive steps aside, effective December 31. Irving will remain on GoDaddy’s board through June 2018.

“After more than three decades in technology, I’ve decided it’s time to retire and begin the next phase of my life,” Irving said in a statement.

Irving took over at GoDaddy in 2013, coming out of a brief semi-retirement that followed three decades in the tech industry at companies like Xerox and Microsoft. He had most recently served as a Yahoo executive vice president until 2012. When he joined GoDaddy, Irving had to contend with the public perception of the company that had been shaped by controversial ads (some would call them sexist) that often aired during the Super Bowl featuring bikini-clad women, as well as some ads that stations deemed too racy to air.

The CEO has worked hard to repair GoDaddy’s reputation (as Fortune magazine noted in the 2014 story “Finally gave a damn ’bout a bad reputation”), to the point that the company is now viewed as being one of the tech industry’s most inclusive workplaces. Meanwhile, Irving took GoDaddy public two years ago, and the company’s shares have more than doubled in value since then.

Last year, revenue increased 15% to $1.8 billion.

Irving believes that criticism of the company’s ads used to overshadow GoDaddy’s actual business operations, but he and his team have spent the past five years changing how people think about the company by being more consistent with how GoDaddy presents itself to the world. “We talk about who we are, who our customers are, and what we do for them,” Irving told Fortune today. “And, it’s made a huge difference in how the company is perceived.”

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Taking over for Irving is Wagner, who also joined GoDaddy in 2013 after spending 13 years as a partner at KKR, one of the three private equity firms that had acquired GoDaddy in a leveraged buyout two years earlier. Wagner actually served as the company’s interim CEO for several months in 2013 before he helped bring Irving on board as the full-time CEO.

“What the company needed was global product leadership at a global scale immediately,” Wagner told Fortune about why Irving was the right man for the job in 2013. “It couldn’t have been a better guy and it’s been unbelievable to learn from Blake [over] the past five years.”

Now, Wagner takes over the full-time CEO role at a time when GoDaddy is expanding its business into new global markets. The company serves more than 17 million customers in 125 countries and closed a deal earlier this year for Host Europe Group (HEG) that has increased GoDaddy’s customer base in Europe while adding to profits. GoDaddy is also seeing additional growth from new products, including new website security services and GoCentral, the company’s new mobile-friendly website builder.

“We’re sort of still scratching the surface of what this business can be,” Wagner said.

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