Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Most Important Person at Gawker Media Not Named Nick Denton Is Leaving

gaby darbyshire gawkerGaby Darbyshire, Gawker Media’s longtime chief operating officer, is leaving the company.

Or maybe she has already left. Ask different people at Nick Denton’s blog network about Darbyshire’s departure date and you’ll get different results. Some think she left last summer; others say last fall, and others insist that she’s still doing a few last things for Denton.

Details! The gist: Darbyshire, a Brit who kept all of Denton’s trains running and his employees out of (severe) legal trouble for the last decade-plus, is going to do something new.

Here’s her official take on the matter, delivered via email: “I had a great run with Nick at Gawker, but I want to do some other projects. Given that the company has matured into a well-oiled machine, it was the right time for me to move on, and change is a good thing for everyone.”

To get a sense of how important Darbyshire was to Denton, consult this excellent 2010 New York Observer profile, written by John Koblin, who now works for Denton at his Deadspin sports site.

Key paragraph:

Virtually all editors who have worked with the site agree that she’s very good at her very busy job, which is not just limited to being the head counsel. She is a sort of everywoman at Gawker, wearing hats that include overseeing law, finance, business development, the 401(k) deals, HR issues, maternity leave policy (which, as a testament to Gawker growing bigger and bigger, now needs to be drafted) — almost anything that is money-related and doesn’t deal with editorial or advertising.

Beyond her crucial role as Gawker’s chief grownup, Darbyshire was also notable for her long tenure. Gawker Media employees come and go all the time — last month, for instance, Gizmodo editor Joe Brown left for Wired; in January, Ray Wert left, just a half year after Denton put him in charge of “content creation” for advertisers — but Darbyshire has been with Denton forever.

Back in May, Denton shuffled his staff around and announced that he was putting Darbyshire in charge of international expansion efforts. Here’s the relevant part of that memo, for Gawker Media completists:

Our international efforts warrant greater attention — and that means a shift in responsibilities for Gaby Darbyshire and a cascade of job moves affecting Scott and others.

Currently, licensing provides some 8% of revenues — but a significantly greater portion of after-tax earnings. That’s pretty normal for a US-centric content company at our stage of development.

But software companies such as search engines can easily make 50% of their revenue overseas. As our language-independent discussion technology platform becomes more important, so will the international business.

As some of you know, we are expanding beyond our existing partnerships in Europe, Japan, Brazil and Australia. Our embryonic relationships in the Middle East, China and India will require much more cultivation — and the bulk of Gaby’s focus.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle