EA CEO John Riccitiello to resign as game maker seeks new leader amid weak results

John

John Riccitello

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello announced today that he’s stepping down from the game maker effective March 30. The company, which owns Seattle-based PopCap Games, also warned that its revenues and earnings per share for the fourth quarter “will be at the low end of, or slightly below previously issued guidance.”

Riccitiello is the co-founder Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that he co-founded in 2004 after working for a number of years at EA. Second in command at EA is a Microsoft veteran, Peter Moore, who now serves as COO.

EA has a market value of $5.6 billion, and its shares are rising in after hours trading following the news of Riccitiello’s departure.

EA paid up to $1.3 billion for PopCap in July 2011, and it also maintains a large development center in Vancouver, B.C.

Here’s the full press release that was issued today:

Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) today announced that John Riccitiello will step down as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective March 30. The Board has appointed Larry Probst as Executive Chairman to ensure a smooth transition and to lead EA’s executive team while the Board conducts a search for a permanent CEO. The Board will consider internal and external candidates with the assistance of a leading executive search firm.

Mr. Probst has played a leadership role at EA since 1991. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Board since 1994, he previously served as the Company’s CEO from 1991 to 2007. As CEO, Probst successfully grew the Company’s annual revenues from $175 million to approximately $3 billion, led EA into new platforms such as mobile, online and other emerging markets and expanded its international presence to more than 75 countries.

“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 Mr. 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.”

On behalf of the Board, Lead Director 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.”

Mr. Riccitiello stated, “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.”

Business Outlook

EA expects that its revenues and earnings per share for the current quarter will be at the low end of, or slightly below previously issued guidance provided in its press release dated January 30, 2013. Actual results may be materially different and can be affected by many factors, including the levels of usage of the Company’s digital products, initial sales of new products that will be released before the end of the quarter and other factors detailed in the Company’s annual and quarterly SEC filings.

EA will announce its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2013 results on May 7, 2013 and will host a conference call at 2:00 pm PT (5:00 pm ET) to discuss the results.