Set to walk away: Michael Malone

Set to walk away: Michael Malone Photo: Rob Homer

After 20 years growing a small Perth-based internet service provider into one of Australia's biggest telecommunications companies, iiNet chief executive Michael Malone says he faces "a long dark road ahead" as he quits the job.

The outgoing chief executive and major iiNet shareholder says he can't rule out selling his shares in the company over the next 12 months. iiNet acting CEO and chief financial officer David Buckingham will take over from Mr Malone while a search is conducted for his replacement, the company said on Friday.

Mr Malone made the decision to leave the company instead of returning from what was meant to be a three to six month holiday while stuck in South America without access to phones or the internet.

"I did a really big trip of over three weeks in Argentina ... and I suppose three weeks wandering around in the mountain with no telephone access or internet access gives you a lot of time to think and reflect on where I wanted to go in the future," he said.

"So that was a bit of a pivotal point ... and the thought of coming back and doing it nine to five just didn't thrill me.

"I've got to say I've got the long dark road in front of me right now...it is difficult to think of your next role while you're in your current role ... so for now I'm hoping to continue with the holidays for the next couple of months at least and I'm hoping inspiration will arise during that period."

Investments, starting another business or an extended holiday are all on the cards as potential future prospects, he said.

Mr Malone said that he wasn't pushed out of the company he founded but admitted there was pressure from the iiNet board to make up his mind on quitting or staying.

"I think there was some implied pressure to make up my mind one way or another," he said. "The business is in a bit of limbo unless I'm absolutely committed to returning to the role.

"I was 90 per cent sure I wasn't going to come back."

Mr Malone says he has no plans to sell any more of his shares in iiNet. The company's founder sold $28.5 million of the company in September 2013.

"We think the company is in a healthy position ... and there's certainly no requirement to sell from a financial perspective," he said. "No I don't [rule out selling my share over the next 12 months], that's a financial decision for my family to make on an ongoing basis and once I step off the board I'm not obliged to disclose and I'm not bound by the [sales] windows.

"So yes there's a possibility of doing it but right at this point in time we've got no intention of selling the stock."

Mr Malone will also leave the board of directors, which means it is largely devoid of executives with direct experience working inside telcos. iiNet chairman Michael Smith said the remaining directors had chaired the company for several years and the process of hiring new members could be finalised as early as next week.

with Max Mason