Timing of EA CEO resignation 'makes sense' says analyst

Robert W. Baird industry watcher not surprised by John Riccitiello's resignation from Battlefield publisher today, says Peter Moore, Frank Gibeau leading internal candidates to take over.


John Riccitiello's resignation today from mega-publisher Electronic Arts was not an entirely surprising event, according to Robert W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian. In a note to investors today, Sebastian said the timing of his departure from EA makes sense for a number of reasons.

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"EA's controversial CEO John Riccitiello will step down as of March 30 as part of a mutual decision with the board of directors. We believe timing makes sense for a CEO transition at the end of the fiscal year, and ahead of next generation console launches and a strong [second half of 2013] title lineup (Battlefield and EA Sports)," Baird said.

Despite EA's financial challenges, which Riccitiello said were part of the reason he decided to resign, Sebastian said EA has positioned itself to benefit from the upcoming console transition.

"We believe EA is well positioned for the console refresh cycle, and the company has made progress in building a digital platform and more recently controlling expenses," Sebastian said. "However, we note that inconsistent financial performance, some high profile title flops (e.g., Star Wars: The Old Republic) and employee turnover were issues that impacted the CEO's credibility."

Lastly, Sebastian suggested that current chief operating officer Peter Moore and EA Labels president Frank Gibeau are leading internal candidates to take over as CEO. The EA Board of Directors will also consider external candidates with the the help of a "leading executive search firm." In the meantime, longtime EA executive Larry Probst will lead EA.

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