The nonprofit parent of Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, has dumped Florence Devouard as its chair and replaced her with board member Michael Snow, while also appointing Ting Chen, an editor of Wikipedia's German and Chinese editions. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee is surely grinning as he thrums his guitar: Devouard has long opposed efforts to profit off the volunteer-written encyclopedia, an idea advanced by McNamee, a cofounder of private-equity firm Elevation Partners. McNamee, whose partner Bono is a buddy of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who has helped broker large donations to the foundation, is believed to have given the board change his approval.
The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit which operates Wikipedia, says its mission is to give the world free access to the sum of all human knowledge. Behind the scenes, it's responsible for the mother of all power struggles. Jimmy Wales is supposedly a figurehead — just one of many board members. Sue Gardner, the executive director, supposedly runs Wikipedia day to day — though deputy director Erik Moeller, a former board member who has long schemed to take control of Wikipedia, actually runs the site's technology and content. Florence Nibart-Devouard, a French local official, replaced Wales as the nonprofit's chair in October 2006, and thinks she's in charge. Ah, but not according to Wikimedia's legal filings.
Did Jimmy Wales misuse funds from the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit he set up in 2003 to oversee Wikipedia? Publicly, the foundation's leaders are saying no. Privately, foundation chair Florence Devouard has alternately bragged about how she's mislead reporters and upbraided Wales over the scandal.
It's not the sex. It's the money. So contends Danny Wool, a former top administrator at the nonprofit which runs Wikipedia. Wool reports on how Wales ran up $30,000 in expenses on trips abroad, many of which allowed him to pick up speaking fees which he kept personally. Florence Devouard, chair of the nonprofit, confronted Wales about this. "I don't make any money, and my wife needs a washing machine," Wales reportedly told her. Her reply, according to Wool: "A gold-plated washing machine?" Wool is right.