Never a dull moment in Gardner's world

Never a dull moment in Gardner's world
Gardner’s CV is not to be sniffed at – most would be pleased enough with setting up and running EA Europe in the mid-eighties, but he subsequently climbed the ranks of the industry’s largest third party publisher to become VP of international publishing and then EVP of EA’s worldwide studios, building an enormous development empire in the process. He’s even been awarded an OBE.

At this point most people would have jacked it all in to sit on a tropical island to sip cocktails and light the odd cigar with a £50 note. At least I would.

But he’s back, and the company he has set about transforming has a rather more turbulent past – just try keeping track of both Atari and Infogrames’ Wikipedia entries.

Clearly Gardner has not arrived to just cash his paycheque and swan around on a golf course all day. Cash-rich and confident are not two phrases you’d associate with the Atari of the past few years, but in the last month all that has changed. First there was significant investment from majority shareholder BlueBay, then Gardner’s appointment.

Atari’s new plan to become a ‘top five online player’ is, like Gardner himself, highly ambitious and awash with real conviction. He speaks with a passion rarely seen in these days of risk-averse business practices and generic corporate waffle.

Gardner isn’t afraid to admit that Atari’s US operation has been problematic – many execs would have batted the issue away with a pithy ‘no comment’. And he is equally candid when setting out where he plans to take the publisher. Gardner believes the future of the Atari brand is online and he is going to set about transforming the company to suit that belief.

After drifting aimlessly for the last year, the company’s staff and shareholders will be relishing the chance to work towards an explicitly defined future.

Atari is the legendary gaming brand that it is because of the pioneering spirit of its founders. In Gardner, the company now has a figurehead with a similar attitude and the balls to try something completely new.

And you can’t help but wish him good luck.

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