RealNetworks cuts 80 jobs, more ahead — Glaser says it sucks but he has a plan

Rob Glaser (Photo: Tyler Sipe)

RealNetworks is cutting 80 jobs, or 7 percent of its workforce, and plans to eliminate an additional 80 positions in the coming months as founder Rob Glaser, back as interim CEO, tries to position the Seattle tech company for a turnaround. The company disclosed the layoffs in a regulatory filing this afternoon.

“When I came back into Real after having been away from day-to-day operations for 2 ½ years, I thought there was a pretty high likelihood that there would be a day like today,” wrote Glaser in a memo to employees today. “I knew it would suck for everyone, and indeed it does.”

He continued, “But I promised myself that if we did have to do a significant layoff, I would do everything in my power to make sure that when we did it we also knew where we were going.  I wanted to be able to look everyone in the eye and tell them that we have a plan to succeed that I believed in from the bottom of my heart.”

“I feel like we are almost there.  While we still have a few areas to work out, we have made great progress.  I can honestly tell you today that we are at least 80% of the way to having such a plan for every major part of our company, and have line-of-sight on the final 20%.”

Glaser says the company’s executives will be sharing more details on the turnaround plan next week in meetings with employees.

The layoffs have been expected since the company’s recent earnings conference call, when Glaser told analysts that RealNetworks was planning to cut $45 million from its annual operating expenses.

RealNetworks pioneered streaming audio and video during the early days of the web but has struggled to find its way in recent years. The company employed more than 1,700 employees at its peak and will reduce its workforce from 1,140 people to 980 through the latest cuts.

Here’s the full text of Glaser’s memo …

Dear RealNetworks Team,

I’m writing to provide an update on the progress we’ve made over the past 8 weeks and to provide some context and information regarding the layoffs that are taking place today.

When I came back in as Interim CEO on July 3rd, I said we would focus on 3 things:

  • Reviewing and assessing all of our businesses and new initiatives,
  • Coming up with a go-forward Strategy for RealNetworks that would set us up to grow and thrive, and
  • Putting together a plan to stop burning cash and to return the company to profitability.   

I also said we would move fast, have a bias towards action, and would work hard to complete all 3 of these efforts within 2 months.

After a lot of hard work by many people across the company and around the world, today I report to you that we have indeed achieved the 3 objectives we set out to work on beginning 8 weeks ago.     

Very soon I will have a lot more to say about our collective assessment of our businesses & new initiatives, and about our go forward strategy.  Specifically, we have scheduled a series of company meetings – both in Seattle and at our main offices around the world – for on or around September 6th.  After these meetings I believe that each of you in attendance will walk away with a clear understanding of our strategies and excitement regarding where we’re going.    

Today I will discuss our plans to return the company to profitability — in a way that will set us up for future growth & success.    

As we mentioned on our financial results call on August 8th, our senior team has put together a plan to cut at least $45 Million of annualized costs.  This plan has several aspects to it; one of the main ones is to streamline our operations and to do things more efficiently.   

Unfortunately, a major part of this streamlining entails reducing our workforce from approximately 1140 people to about 980 people.  We are doing this in two phases.  The first phase, which begins today, involves laying off approximately 80 people, who are being given notice today.  

The second phase, which will take place over the next 3 to 7 months, involves approximately 80 more people, who are being notified today that there is a specific future date when their current assignment will be ending.  We hope to redeploy a number of these people when their current assignments end, but as of today don’t know how many we will find positions for.  These people are working on projects that will merge duplicate systems or otherwise make us more efficient.       

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the approximately 160 people affected by today’s announcement, and also my remorse that we have had to take these steps.  You have all made major contributions to RealNetworks.  We are grateful for everything you have done for our company and our customers.  

I also want to express my appreciation to the approximately 980 people who are not directly impacted by today’s actions, and to acknowledge that many of you are indirectly affected, because of the impact on your colleagues and friends.

Permit me to close on a personal note.  When I came back into Real after having been away from day-to-day operations for 2 ½ years, I thought there was a pretty high likelihood that there would be a day like today.   I knew it would suck for everyone, and indeed it does.  

But I promised myself that if we did have to do a significant layoff, I would do everything in my power to make sure that when we did it we also knew where we were going.  I wanted to be able to look everyone in the eye and tell them that we have a plan to succeed that I believed in from the bottom of my heart.     

I feel like we are almost there.  While we still have a few areas to work out, we have made great progress.  I can honestly tell you today that we are at least 80% of the way to having such a plan for every major part of our company, and have line-of-sight on the final 20%.    

This clarity on strategy, as you would expect, has significantly influenced how and where we are cutting costs, and where we are investing for the future.  I look forward to discussing this further when we meet next week. 

Rob

  • guest

    Not unexpected.

  • guest

    Good luck to the employees in their search for a new opportunity and good luck to RN and Rob Glaser. I say take the company private and innovate without worrying about whether ideas are profitable Day 1 or not. For crying out loud, RN built YouTube (OpenPass) but tried to make money on it via subscribers. (YouTube sold to Google for $1.65 billion)

  • guest

    meanwhile various RN executives past and present made millions while running the car into the ditch.

  • guest

    Another round of cuts not deep enough. Is this the 3rd or 4th round of cuts in the last 2 years? Why can’t they just rip the bandaid off instead of picking at it slowly. Personally I would guess they should have laid off at least 250 to 300.

  • guest

    Let the buffering continue