Riccitiello out at EA

John Riccitiello has resigned from his role as EA CEO.

He will leave the publisher at the end of the month.

EA confirmed the news to shareholders this evening, saying that former CEO and executive chairman Larry Probst will oversee the firm as the search for a replacement continues.

Riccitiello will also vacate his position on the EA board. He will receive 24 months salary as part of the departure deal.

Speculation will no doubt suggest Peter Moore – currently COO of EA, and former head of the Xbox business and Sega before that – is the favourite.

This will end Riccitiello’s second term as head of the publisher.

He oversaw its huge growth into a publishing giant from 1997 to 2004, before leaving for VC firm Elevation Partners.

He rejoined EA in 2007. During his second tenure he said he would lead the firm to a $1bn dollars in digital revenue – which succeeded. He also restructured the firm at repeated intervals to better position it for market transitions. In that time he oversaw the acquisition of studios and businesses such as BioWare/Pandemic (which he had actually merged while at Elevation), PopCap and Playfish.

Some might think the departure is connected to the recent controversial launch of SimCity – with plenty of scandal about claims demanding always-online connectivity – but in JR’s letter to the company he said it was actually due to accountability over upcoming poor financials.

He said: "We will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued in January."

EA’s official note was not as detailed as the above on his achievements, but included three quotes – one from Probst, lead director Richard Simonson and Riccitiello himself:

"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."

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."

Riccitiello said: "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."

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