New CEO, NASDAQ woes for Atari

Ex-movie mogul David Pierce takes reins from Bonnell as the French publisher seeks stock-market delisting appeal.

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In November 2004, Bruno Bonnell stepped down as CEO of French publisher Atari. The current Chairman and Chief Creative Officer was replaced by board member James Caparro, a former executive at record labels Warner Music Group, Universal Music, and PolyGram. Just over six months later, though, Caparro's swan song played. He abruptly resigned, forcing Bonnell to retake the reins of the once-mighty game giant as interim CEO.

Over a year later, Bonnell has finally found a (hopefully) permanent replacement. Today, Atari named David Pierce as its new CEO and president. Like Caparro, Pierce is a veteran of the entertainment industry, although his provenance is from movie studios as well as music. Before his new gig, he held executive positions at Universal Pictures, MGM, and Sony Pictures. In a press release, Atari also played up how Pierce "spearheaded the complete restructuring and turnaround of Sony Wonder, a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment."

Not so coincidentally, Atari is itself in the middle of a turnaround, having just completed a sell-off of several internal studios and game properties. June saw it sell the once-storied Driver franchise and its developer, Reflections Interactive, to fellow francophones Ubisoft. Another Paris-based firm, Vivendi Games, took the Xbox 360 shooter TimeShift off Atari's hands in May, and US-based THQ bought the Stuntman license as well as Paradigm Entertainment, the game's maker.

News of Pierce's appointment put a little bit of wind into the sails of Atari's stock. As of press time, its share price had risen $0.02 from its Friday close to $0.71, or 2.9 percent, on the NASDAQ.

Though comparatively significant, the boost does not put Atari over the $1-per-share threshold required to be listed on the US's second-biggest market. As the Labor Day Weekend kicked off late Friday, Atari quietly announced it had been served with a noncompliance notice from NASDAQ and is now subject to delisting. It is appealing the decision and expects a hearing to be held "in approximately 25 to 45 days," during which time it will continue to trade on NASDAQ.

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