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Ex-EA execs weigh in on CEO transition

By Steve Peterson

Ex-EA execs weigh in on CEO transition

Tue 19 Mar 2013 8:58pm GMT / 4:58pm EDT / 1:58pm PDT

One EA veteran calls Riccitiello the main reason EA stopped kicking ass

John Riccitiello has not yet left his role as CEO of Electronic Arts, but his legacy is already being written. Following our discussion with analysts, GamesIndustry International reached out to some former EA executives to see what perspective they had on Riccitello's departure and the return of Larry Probst as interim boss.

Bing Gordon was one of the co-founders of EA and served as EA's Chief Creative Officer for many years before becoming a partner at venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins and a board member at Zynga. Gordon had this to say: "Larry Probst is a great executive, who has created huge value in the past. While I am happy to see him focused on EA, I really hope he can get the virtual effects designers of EA to figure out how to make snow for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics." Gordon is referring to Probst's role as chairman of the US Winter Olympic Committee, which along with the role of executive chairman for EA will keep him very busy indeed.

Don Daglow, a producer at Electronic Arts from 1983 to 1987 and longtime industry observer, believes Riccitiello will be seen positively overall in EA's history. "Obviously there were some big bets that did not pan out, but I think that history will give John credit for turning the battleship in important new directions when other companies (THQ being the most apparent) changed course towards digital too late and too gently and ran aground," he said.

"It's sad really, that company used to kick ass. Riccitiello was the single largest reason it stopped"

Ex-EA Executive

One ex-EA executive, who wished not to be named, was less charitable about Riccitiello's tenure, however. "Riccitiello lost money every single year he was at EA while I was there, (and probably every other year he was there too). He just didn't know anything about games, or rather, interactive entertainment in general. After I left, he was gone for a while... [then] Riccitiello came back, but since he hadn't learned anything as a VC guy, he really didn't bring anything of value with him the first or the second time. He's much more obnoxious than impressive," said the exec, referring to Riccitiello's time at Elevation Partners before coming back to lead EA.

"So now Larry is back while they find someone, and while Larry is really sharp and knows the market, I don't have a clue as to whether his heart is in it. (I suspect not.) EA currently has a huge staff of unproductive senior execs that have 'retired in place' (internally we used to call it the 'EA Retirement Home') and they might think they are (or were) creative powerhouses, but of course the creative people actually left EA long ago to seek work where they could be creative (take risks), and invent things," the former exec continued.

"EA hasn't done much of anything of interest in 10-15 years, as proven by the unstaunched bleeding out of equity over that entire time period. It's sad really, that company used to kick ass. Riccitiello was the single largest reason it stopped. Maybe it will heal, but I don't think so."

The stock market hasn't been happy with EA's stock today as the shares lost over 8 percent in value, after rising in after-hours trading last night. The prospect of lower earnings than expected and the uncertainty around the transition to a new CEO are combining to keep EA's share price down.

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Morgan Ramsay Founder, President & CEO, Entertainment Media Council

7 4 0.6
Bing Gordon was not a cofounder of EA. There were no cofounders of EA.

Posted:3 years ago


Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief

245 322 1.3
Very disappointed with this interview. Reads like a bitter, vindictive individual venting personal frustrations. It is a good thing that you chose to keep him anonymous. Sad that you chose to publish it at all.

Posted:3 years ago


Caleb Hale Journalist

175 284 1.6
Strikes me as strange that none of these former EA executives can offer some insight on where the company should go from here and instead opt to snipe from the shadows. It seems EA has been and continues to be a toxic workplace, and they probably need to get that under control before they ever get a handle on selling games that don't instantly piss people off in some form or another.

Posted:3 years ago


Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief

245 322 1.3
So it is better to be petty and vindictive anonymously, rather than publicly?

No, if you are going to be petty and vindictive, it is better to be silent.

Posted:3 years ago


Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,976 2,267 1.1
It's only petty and vindictive if there's no basis to the allegations. I can't currently verify the accuracy of "[he] lost money every single year he was there", but it's certainly true of the last couple of years, for instance. Moreover, just because something is said anonymously does not mean there is bitterness or spitefulness to the allegations, or that they're untrue due solely to the cloak of anonymity.

Edit to add:

If this industry is to mature, it needs to accept that anonymous snarky comments are a way of life. Unless people think we're better than politics or the financial and industrial sectors.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 20th March 2013 5:29pm

Posted:3 years ago


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