EA CEO John Riccitiello Steps Down

EA announced that the long-time CEO of the company, John Riccitiello, will be stepping down from his position as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the company’s Board of Directors on March 30. The Board has appointed Larry Probst to serve as its Executive Chairman and handle things until they find a replacement to take over for Riccitiello.

According to the company, the decision for Riccitiello to step down was mutual.

“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 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.”

It’s been rumored since last summer that Peter Moore would be replacing Riccitiello in his duties, and it appears to have come to a head.

Although it’s too early to tell, the recent problems with SimCity and Medal of Honor: Warfighter before may have served to hasten his departure. It wouldn’t be surprising to us if the company laid its uncompromising stance on DRM solely at Riccitiello’s feet.

We’ll be looking into the matter more closely. The full press release follows.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)— Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) 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.”

Riccitiello’s letter of resignation to the Board of Directors follows.

March 17, 2013
Mr. Larry Probst
Chairman Electronic Arts

Dear Larry,

I hereby offer my resignation as CEO of Electronic Arts effective with the end of our Fiscal Year 13 on March 30, 2013.

This is a tough decision, but it all comes down to accountability. The progress EA has made on transitioning to digital games and services is something I’m extremely proud of. However, it currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued in January, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. EA’s shareholders and employees expect better and I am accountable for the miss.

I have been at the helm as EA’s CEO for six years and served as COO for nearly seven years starting in 1997. I know this company well, and I care deeply about its future success. I leave knowing EA is a great company, with an enormously talented group of leaders and the strongest slate of games in the industry. I could not be more proud of our company’s games, from Battlefield and FIFA, to The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing 3. We have built many great franchises that will serve the company well in FY14 and beyond. In particular, I am confident that the investments we have made in games for next-generation consoles will put EA in a strong leadership position for many years ahead.

In offering my resignation, my goal is to allow the talented leaders at EA a clean start on FY14. I look forward to working with you in the coming weeks on an effective leadership transition. I’m extremely honored to have led this company and proud to have worked with all the great people at Electronic Arts.

Sincerely,
John Riccitiello

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21 Comments on EA CEO John Riccitiello Steps Down

Kevin

On March 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

“EA is an outstanding company”

What kind of drugs is he on? ‘Cause I could use some right about now.

Clive Anderson

On March 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Kevin – he’s basing it purely on the bottom line, same as Jessica Merizan when she said those who are/were unhappy with the ending to Mass Effect 3 were not the majority despite every bit of statistical data proving that they’re not only a majority but a pretty big one at that. Riccitiello only cares about numbers, not whether his company is seen as the most venal and corrupt force in the industry.

JawaEsteban

On March 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

You want proof that EA has finally worn out its welcome with a large enough percentage of the gaming community to negatively affect the bottom line in a significant way? This is it.

Ladies an’ gentlemen, this calls for celebration. A drink to the happy demise of one of the biggest proponents of the consumer abusive practies that the industry has been engaging in of late.

I’m sure Mr. Riccitiello will be able to find meaningful employment in another industry that can make good use of his talents. I hear that management in the drug cartels has a lot of openings these days.

Michael

On March 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Yeah and its because of him EA’s stock has been plummetting because of there horrible business models involving of the microtransactions and now always online playing. Trying so hard to be like activision/blizzard. For something like this to work you have to first you have to build a trusting relationship with your consumer and with it have great integrity with your consumers and not try to nickel and dime them for every little thing.

Game developers need to stay away from these 2 models for a while because no one is doing it right and its pissing off there consumers.

Ubisoft should learn from this because they seem to follow this same path.

DrChannington

On March 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I feel a little bad that he lost his job and is taking a walk of shame out of that shining EA castle, but…

…GOOD RIDDANCE.

The Real Kevin

On March 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Yeah, I really don’t feel very sorry for him. in the past few years he’s managed to destroy gaming franchise after franchise. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Star Wars (though hey those games have been downhill a long time as well), Medal of Honor, and now Sim City. Billions spent, and billions blown.

Was only a matter of time before that finally took its toll.

goose2989

On March 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm

@DrChannington

He may have lost his job, but he’ll find another one soon enough. He also made enough money in just the past two years to make him in the nation’s top 1% of earners, if spread out over an 80-year period. I don’t think losing his job is going to drastically change his life, and I feel little sympathy for him.

That being said, I would much rather have seen John and the other top managers at EA turn the company around, in the eyes of both fans and Wall Street, rather than the house cleaning that I think is inevitably coming now.

paulb3rd

On March 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I am sure the fiasco that was the recent Sim City release didn’t help his cause for continued employment.

Having worked in C-level positions and run companies myself, it never ceases to amaze how many executives miss the most important part of running a business – keeping your customers happy. If you provide a great product and give excellent after the sale support, you will always make money. When you put out crappy products and give piss poor support, the customers walk away. It really is that simple.

doonerbandit

On March 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

NAH na nah NAH nah nah HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE!! I would feel bad for gloating but this guys worth millions and will probaly get a job paying millions in a couple of months so yeah i’m not mocking someone whos welfare bound. A fate he condemned many people with families too.

Wesker1984

On March 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Does it mean a brighter future for EA or things can get worst?

gasmaskangel

On March 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I feel like being nice about this and trying to say it’s not cool to crow about someone losing their job even if they are a complete gobe, but who am I kidding? If he feels bad about being fired (I’m sorry, stepping down) at all he’ll just weep into his pillow made from and stuffed by thousand dollar bills.

The fact is I don’t see this changing anything, not unless EA’s next CEO a.) comes from outside the company, and b.) has it in their mind to really shake things up.

DrChannington

On March 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm

@goose2989

Ice cold hahaha

goose2989

On March 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

@gasmaskangel

You’re probably right; this is actually very typical of large corporations during a stretch of poor financial success. EA is unlikely to change in any noticeable way in the coming years. I only think that could happen if an outsider is brought in as CEO, like you said. If we’re lucky enough to see that, and the new CEO also sends many of the current managers out the door, I would be much more optimistic about EA taking a new direction.

R.J.

On March 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Now the question will be whether anything changes. One would think that the facts that the CEO is stepping down, the company’s stock has tanked in the last year, the mass exodus of long-time employees, and the fact that the company can’t release a game without some sort of controversy or the game being lousy would force the next person in the big chair to reevaluate what EA does and why things have turned out the way they have. It really shouldn’t be that hard to figure out what needs to be addressed. Microtranactions in full retail games need to go, always-on DRM needs to go, and trying to ignore/downplay/spin or otherwise lie about what people are upset about needs to stop. Honest communication goes a long way.

@Wesker

I can only hope that it is a sign that things might get better. The top people making the most money don’t usually leave unless it is clear to everyone else that something has gone very wrong.

Aedelric

On March 19, 2013 at 2:53 am

Thank you for your years of dedication devoted to stripping the life out of an already soulless company. And lets not forget your tireless efforts in making the gaming community as a whole less trusting of publishers while simultaneously forcing innovative industry standards such as always online DRM and day one DLC with “optional” small DLC’s for the price of a whole game!

With such fantastic, critically successful and popular business practices of the past, one can only assume the next EA CEO will have his work cut out to live up to such expectations. Unless of course he is not an absolutely brain dead money grabbing corporate monkey with no clue to what the average gamer desires.

They could hire Tim Schafer, Gabe Newell and Todd Howard to run the business and people would still hate the company, EA is in a bad situation when it comes the image they currently have. As for Mr Riccitiello himself, I have no pity that he is now jobless, he earned millions off foolish gamers that support EA, fingers crossed whatever career he decides to pollute next, will not be games related.

David

On March 19, 2013 at 3:47 am

Well, even though his company has obliterated a lot of really good franchises, I think he also deserves praise for being a contributor to the rise of Kickstarter. Without Riccitiello and his peers, a lot of gamers would still like these huge publishers, and the great advantage in removing douchebags CEOs with Kickstarter wouldn’t be such a clear advantage.

I wouldn’t go so far in saying he’s the main driver for Kickstarter games, but in his own little way, he scared us away into the arms of indie developers. He’ll be getting no thank yous, just a silent nod.

Lloyd

On March 19, 2013 at 3:55 am

Good riddance to an out-of-touch fool who has held the industry back for years. EA will soon be out of business if they don’t get someone in who actually understands gamers.

Patches

On March 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

Good riddance…

And when Peter Moore resign too: Good riddance too…

Kyle

On March 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I know people are trying to defend him because after all he is only human. And I know that EA isn’t the true devil we make it out to me but the failures they’ve had in the past few years are colossal. Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3 ending, SWToR, Dead Space 3, and SimCity. They basically fumbled the ball in all of their biggest franchises. I know FIFA and BF are juggernauts but thats 2 positives and 5 massive failures. Someone had to take the blame. I just hope the next head honcho changes things.

quicktooth

On March 19, 2013 at 11:06 pm

YAAAAYY!!

R.J.

On March 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm

@Kyle

Even FIFA has a stigma attached to it since EA FIFA 13 was just FIFA 12 with updated rosters, which is pretty bad. When a full retail game is sold that does nothing more than offer something that could be accomplished with a patch, I’d say that is pretty dirty.