Reddit’s new CEO may not be ‘interim’ for long

November 13, 2014, 9:50 PM UTC
Reddit mascots are displayed at the company's headquarters in San Francisco
Reddit mascots are displayed at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California April 15, 2014. Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As, is going after more eyeballs, and advertising, by allowing members of its passionate community to post their own news more quickly and easily. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - RTR3LFPE
Photograph by Robert Galbraith — Reuters

Reddit, the online comment and aggregation site that boasts 175 million users, today announced that CEO Yishan Wong resigned last week due to a disagreement over new office space. He will be succeeded on an interim basis by business development head Ellen Pao, while co-founder Alexis Ohanian will return as fulltime executive chairman.

Fortune spent some time on the phone this afternoon with Pao and Ohanian, and learned the following:

Pao may not be interim CEO for long: Reddit is not currently looking for a permanent replacement for Yishan Wong, because the hope is that Pao can prove worthy of the role. “Speaking as a board member and the executive chairman, I’m hopeful this is not an interim position,” Ohanian said.

Yes, it was really about an office: No doubt, it’s extremely strange that the CEO of a half-billion dollar company resigned because of a disagreement over where he plans to park his desk. Particularly given that Reddit is only looking to move from one building in San Francisco to… another building in San Francisco. Moreover, Wong is the CEO who told Reddit employees in cities like New York and Salt Lake City that they must relocate to San Francisco by year-end or find other work. But both Pao and Ohanian insist that office space was the straw that broke Wong’s employment. “To add one layer, he genuinely did want to spend more time with his family, but you’d probably consider that to be an even less satisfying answer,” Ohanian said.

Culture club: Pao says that, upon joining Reddit last year, the thing that surprised her most was the “depth of connections” people make on Reddit, particularly people who don’t share geography, ethnicity or other normally-bonding demographics. She says that her initial goal is to help blend the corporate culture as out-of-town Reddit employees move to San Francisco, and then continue to ship new products like RedditMade (custom products made by users) and RedditGifts (a giant online Secret Santa program).

Community chest: Upon raising $50 million in VC funding back in September, Reddit announced that it planned to allocate around 10% of its shares to members of the Reddit community. That’s still the plan — and actually something Ohanian first proposed to company lawyers when it spun out of Condé Nast in 2011 — but Reddit is still working out the specifics. Sounds like Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency could be used (no doubt making members of r/bitcoin quite giddy).

Job responsibilities: Pao says that, in the wake of Wong’s resignation, bringing Ohanian back was a primary concern because he is the “voice of Reddit.” But he’s also the animator of Reddit, explaining that he originally drew the company’s iconic alien, and is the “final arbiter” of how it is drawn in future iterations.

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