Elephant-shooting GoDaddy CEO nearly studied zoology

Choice of major at University of Baltimore was a shot in the dark

April 06, 2011|By Laura Vozzella, The Baltimore Sun

Bob Parsons, the Baltimore native and GoDaddy.com CEO, has known for a long time that sex sells. His racy Super Bowl ads have helped his company become the biggest registrar, by far, of Internet domain names.

And now he knows what unsells: dead elephants.

Parsons posted a video of himself shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe. Parsons said he was doing villagers a favor, saving them from elephants that are trampling crops.

Since then, he's taken heat for reasons obvious (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which sent him its "first-ever Scummiest CEO of the Year Award," said there are more humane ways to control problem pachyderms) and less obvious (Vanity Fair took issue with the implications of the camera angle in the part of the video that shows hungry villagers hacking away at the elephant carcass for meat. "Parsons's camera noticeably records the frantic scene from above, reflecting yet again the complex and divisive class issues inherent in the colonial-style hunt," wrote Jamie Johnson wrote on vanityfair.com).

Perhaps more painful to the thick-skinned CEO: He's lost business. More than 20,000 people have reportedly moved their registrations to rival companies that coupled cut-rate transfer deals with donations to elephant charities

Maybe you thought it was inevitable that a brash guy like Parsons would end up in the middle of a controversy like this. But things didn't have to turn out this way. Indeed, they nearly didn't.

Consider Parsons' comments in an interview with The Sun a year ago, when his alma mater, the University of Baltimore, named him its "distinguished entrepreneur of 2010." (In 2008, the school awarded him an honorary Doctorate of — you guessed it! — Humane Letters. But I digress.)

Parsons told The Sun's Jamie Smith Hopkins that it was only by chance that he'd majored in accounting at UB, something he credited with greatly helping him in business. He wanted to avoid having to stand in a long line to confer with a UB academic counselor before registering, so he flipped open a booklet with a list of majors and picked the first one listed.

"Had I opened [the booklet] backwards and become a zoologist, I have no idea what I'd be doing."

It's a good bet he wouldn't have gone on that elephant hunt.

O Captain, my Captain

Greg Massoni might be best known in Maryland political circles as a Friend of Bob Ehrlich. But the really impressive name-dropping shows up on his bio at King & Spalding, the Washington law firm where he has gone to work with the ex-governor.

Among other things, Massoni is billed as the former director of "Captain Chesapeake."

The children's TV show went on the air at WBFF-TV in 1971 and ran for nearly 20 years, led by a friendly steamship captain who always encouraged viewers to "Be somebody important: Be yourself."

But was Massoni really director of that show? Dwight Weems is the director of record.

"That was definitely me," said Weems, now director of creative services at Sinclair Broadcasting. He did say it was possible that Massoni filled in for him when he was on vacation.

Massoni, who worked for WBFF-TV from 1974 to 1980, said that at some point late in his tenure there, Weems moved up to something along the lines of an executive producer and Massoni and others did the directing. "I was one of many [directors]," Massoni said.

I ran that by Weems, who said that was possible, though his memory was a bit fuzzy.

"It's safe to say he was one of the directors," Weems said.

So what were Massoni's other duties on the show. Did he play Mondy the Sea Monster?

"I cannot confirm or deny that," Weems said. "Those secrets went down with the ship. You've got to go to the bottom of the harbor to find that out."

Upon reflection, however, Massoni set the record straight on that point.

"I was never the sea monster," Massoni said. "Bruce the Bird, occasionally. But never the sea monster."


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