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John Riccitiello out at EA

Exec stepping down as CEO and board member; Larry Probst named executive chairman to oversee search for new CEO [UPDATE: internal memo added]

John Riccitiello's second tenure with Electronic Arts is coming to an end. The publisher today announced that Riccitiello will step down as CEO and a member of the board of directors, effective March 30.

Additionally, the company has tapped former EA CEO and current chairman of the board Larry Probst to serve as executive chairman, effective immediately. Probst's role will be to ensure a smooth transition and provide the company with leadership while the board conducts a search for a new permanent CEO. EA has enlisted the aid of an executive search firm for that task, and will be considering internal as well as external candidates for the role. Probst ran EA as CEO from 1991 to 2007, and has been chairman of the board since 1994.

"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," Probst said in a statement. "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."

"This is a tough decision, but it all comes down to accountability."

Riccitiello, in his resignation letter

Riccitiello said it had been an honor to serve as CEO and added, "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."

In his previous stint at EA, Riccitiello rose to be president and COO before leaving in 2004 to work with Elevation Partners. He left that outfit to take the CEO position at EA in 2007. Later that same year, EA acquired BioWare-Pandemic from Elevation for $860 million.

EA also updated its outlook for the current fiscal year, cautioning investors that it expects to come in on the low end or slightly below its guidance from January. The company is set to announce its fourth quarter and year-end results on May 7.

Electronic Arts filed Riccitiello's resignation letter with the SEC. The full text follows:

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,

/s/ John Riccitiello

Update: Thanks to The Wall Street Journal, we now have a copy of the internal memo that Riccitiello sent to EA employees today. It's posted in full below.

To Everyone at EA -

I am writing with some tough news. I have resigned my position as EA's CEO. I will be around for a couple of weeks, and I hope to have the chance to say goodbye to many of you. Larry Probst will be stepping in as Executive Chairman to help smooth the transition. Larry first hired me at EA in 1997 and he was an incredible leader for the company during the 16 years he served as CEO. While he will continue to be the Chairman of the US Olympic Committee, he will also provide leadership for EA until a permanent CEO is appointed.

My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year. It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable.

Personally, I think we've never been in a better position as a company. You have made enormous progress in improving product quality. You are now generating more revenue on fewer titles by making EA's games better and bigger. You've navigated a rapidly transforming industry to create a digital business that is now approximately $1.5 billion and growing fast. The big investments you've made in creating EA's own platform are now showing solid returns. I believe EA is alone in mastering the challenges of building a platform for our games and services - a platform that will provide a more direct relationship with our consumers. You are number one in the fastest growing segment, mobile, with incredible games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, Bejeweled, SCRABBLE and Plants v. Zombies. You have worked to put EA in a position to capture industry leadership on the next generation of consoles; and I believe two of our titles - Battlefield and FIFA - will be among the top few franchises in the entire industry. And the industry's most talented management team - Frank, Rajat, Peter, Gaby, Andrew, Patrick, Blake, Joel and Jeff - are certain to lead the company to a successful future.

I remain an incredible fan of EA and everyone who works in our world - from Stockholm to Seoul, Orlando to Edmonton, Guildford, Geneva, Cologne, Lyon, Bucharest, Montreal, Austin, Salt Lake, LA and, of course, EARS. My hope is that my travels and yours allow us the opportunity to talk more in the months and years to come.

In a few weeks, I will be leaving EA physically. But I will never leave emotionally. I am so incredibly proud of all the great things you have done, and it has been my honor to lead this team these past six years. After March, I will be cheering wildly for EA from the sidelines.

Author
Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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