Rob Glaser

Thomas Nielsen has resigned as RealNetworks CEO after seven months in the job, and founder Rob Glaser has been appointed by the board to fill the position on an interim basis, returning temporarily to a position that he held for more than 15 years.

“The board and Thomas mutually agreed that the CEO position wasn’t the right fit,” Glaser said in a news release announcing the change. “We thank Thomas for the contributions he has made in moving RealNetworks forward and wish him well in his new endeavors.”

Glaser, who stepped down as CEO in 2010 but remains chairman, said in the release that he’s not a candidate for the permanent CEO position.

Nielsen, a former Adobe executive, saw RealNetworks through the sale of a large patent portfolio to Intel for $120 million. He had promised at the time that the sale was just the start of his efforts to streamline the company’s operations and return it to growth mode.

“RealNetworks has so many businesses that, if I were to give you the elevator pitch of what we do, it’d better be a very tall building,” Nielsen told GeekWire in a January, after the Intel deal was announced.

Thomas Nielsen

In an email to employees today, Glaser struck a different chord: “We all recognize that RealNetworks has had too much change in the past 2 ½ years. Along with my colleagues on the senior team and on the board, I’m committed to setting the company on a stable, long-term path to success and to a smooth succession plan.”

RealNetworks pioneered the use of online video and audio, but has struggled mightily to find its place as the web has evolved. Apart from its GameHouse video-game unit, the company has gotten out of the business of selling content and now focuses more on behind-the-scenes technologies for wireless carries and digital media tools such as its RealPlayer software.

The company, which has experienced a series of executive departures and layoffs over the past three years, posted a net loss of $27.1 million in 2011 on revenue of $335.7 million. RealNetworks had $167 million in cash and short-term investments as of March 31, prior to the completion of the Intel deal.

Here’s the message Glaser sent to employees today, as posted on his Facebook page

Team-

I’m writing to tell you about a change in leadership at RealNetworks.

Thomas Nielsen has resigned as President & CEO, effective immediately. Thomas and RealNetworks’ board have mutually agreed that Thomas wasn’t a fit.

The board has asked me to step in as Interim CEO. I’m humbled and honored to take on this responsibility.

RealNetworks is a great company that has done amazing things in the past and that will do even more amazing things in the future.

We will have a company meeting next Monday (July 9th) in Seattle to discuss things in more detail. We also plan to send out a short video message for our employees located outside of Seattle.

In the interim, let me make 3 points.

1. We have a lot to do to bring RealNetworks into the future. I will come to work every day with a sense of urgency and a bias towards action. I want all of you to do the same. Our two highest priorities will be to lock in on a go-forward strategy for RealNetworks, and to get cashflow positive. You will hear more about this in the coming days and weeks.

2. I’m not a candidate for permanent CEO. Because of personal and other professional responsibilities, I can’t sign up to be permanent CEO. Having said that, while iCEO, I can promise you that I will give 100%.

3. We all recognize that RealNetworks has had too much change in the past 2 ½ years. Along with my colleagues on the senior team and on the board, I’m committed to setting the company on a stable, long-term path to success and to a smooth succession plan.

On behalf of the Board and the entire management team, I want to personally thank Thomas for his efforts.

I look forward to seeing our Seattle employees next Monday and hearing from our global employees.

Rob

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