Paddy Cosgrave back as Web Summit CEO, no comment on Israel ‘war crimes’ remarks

Paddy Cosgrave has returned to his role as CEO of the major European tech conference Web Summit – less than six months after he resigned after sparking outrage by accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza.

Cosgrave, an Irish entrepreneur and Web Summit’s co-founder, had stepped down from the firm’s top post last fall after he tweeted on Oct. 13, “war crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”

At the time, Israel had launched a campaign of retaliatory airstrikes against Hamas terrorists who carried out a surprise attack on the country. More than 1,400 people in Israel were killed in the attack, while hundreds more were taken as hostages.

In his Monday post on X, Cosgrave made no mention of the controversial circumstances surrounding his exit — instead writing that “it was the first time I had taken time off in 15 years.”

Paddy Cosgrave did not mention his past remarks in his comeback announcement. Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

“I took the time to reconnect with old Web Summit friends and I listened to what they had to say and what they wanted from Web Summit,” Cosgrove wrote. “Some incredible tech advancements, relationships, partnerships, and companies have grown from our events and I want to continue building on this.”

Web Summit — which is among the most popular and well-attended tech conferences in the world, drawing more than 70,000 visitors in 2022 — retweeted Cosgrave’s post on its own X account.

When asked if Web Summit had addressed Cosgrave’s past remarks about Israel as part of the negotiations that led to his return, a spokesperson did not comment.

Cosgrave posted a lengthy comeback announcement on X.

Cosgrave’s remarks last year prompted Amazon, Google, Meta and dozens of other tech companies to withdraw from the 2023 edition of the Web Summit in Portugal.

Other co-founders had demanded that Cosgrave divest his stake in the conference’s parent company, but that never occurred.

“Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend,” Cosgrave said in his resignation announcement last October. “I sincerely apologize again for any hurt I have caused.”

Web Summit is one of the world’s largest tech conferences. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The spokesperson did not address the controversy surrounding Cosgrave’s comments, instead referring to a blog post which detailed Web Summit’s upcoming plans.

“Our new North Star is creating meaningful communities and connections for our attendees,” the blog post said. “Over the last year we have tested small prototype meetups for attendees in similar industries like product engineers or marketing leads. All of these were facilitated through our Web Summit app and the feedback has been incredible.”

Cosgrave was temporarily replaced by former Wikimedia Foundation CEO Katherine Maher, who herself left the role within a few months to take over as boss of NPR.

Maher also landed in hot water last January after scrubbing her social media accounts of hyper-partisan, left-leaning posts, including a 2018 tweet in which she declared, “Donald Trump is a racist.”

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