EA may be known for the phrase “it’s in the game,” but the game publisher’s CEO is no longer living that motto. EA CEO John Riccitiello today turned in in letter of resignation, with his last day at the helm of Electronic Arts being March 30. Larry Probst, taking the temporary position of Executive Chairman, will take over on an interim basis and lead the search for a new CEO.
No specific reason was provided publicly for Riccitiello’s resignation, although the company’s fourth-quarter revenues and earnings per share are scheduled to be at the “low end” of the company’s guidance from January 30. The resignation also comes amid the publisher’s PR black eye in the light of the server issues that plagued the new Sim City up on launch, to the point that EA offered all Sim City owners a free game from the publisher as compensation for their troubles.
Here is the press release as EA released it today:
Electronic Arts Inc. today announced that John Riccitiello will step down as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective March 30. The Board has appointed Larry Probst as Executive Chairman to ensure a smooth transition and to lead EA’s executive team while the Board conducts a search for a permanent CEO. The Board will consider internal and external candidates with the assistance of a leading executive search firm.
Mr. Probst has played a leadership role at EA since 1991. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Board since 1994, he previously served as the Company’s CEO from 1991 to 2007. As CEO, Probst successfully grew the Company’s annual revenues from $175 million to approximately $3 billion, led EA into new platforms such as mobile, online and other emerging markets and expanded its international presence to more than 75 countries.
“We thank John for his contributions to EA since he was appointed CEO in 2007, especially the passion, dedication and energy he brought to the Company every single day,” said Mr. Probst. “John has worked hard to lead the Company through challenging transitions in our industry, and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues. We appreciate John’s leadership and the many important strategic initiatives he has driven for the Company. We have mutually agreed that this is the right time for a leadership transition.”
On behalf of the Board, Lead Director Richard A. Simonson stated, “As we begin the CEO search, we are fortunate that Larry, who has a proven track record with our employees, partners and customers, has agreed to assume a day-to-day leadership role as Executive Chairman. He has 16 years of experience as CEO of EA and a deep understanding of the Company’s strategy, management team, business potential and industry trends.”
Mr. Riccitiello stated, “EA is an outstanding company with creative and talented employees, and it has been an honor to serve as the Company’s CEO. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and after six years I feel it is the right time for me pass the baton and let new leadership take the Company into its next phase of innovation and growth. I remain very optimistic about EA’s future – there is a world class team driving the Company’s transition to the next generation of game consoles.”
E3 will feel different this year without Riccitiello’s presence at EA’s press conference. Authoritative yet approachable, Riccitiello was consistently a breath of fresh air on the E3 press conference circuit, and his “everyman” demeanor will be missed. Here’s hoping he lands on his feet soon somewhere else.