EA taps Riccitiello as CEO

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Video game giant Electronic Arts said Monday that it will replace CEO Larry Probst with former executive John Riccitiello, a co-founder of Elevation Partners, the private-equity firm whose partners include U2 frontman Bono.

Probst has been CEO at Electronic Arts for 16 years. He will step down April 2, though he will continue as executive chairman of the board of directors.

Riccitiello had been COO at Electronic Arts until leaving three years ago to help found Elevation, whose partners include Roger McNamee, an early investor in Amazon.com and Cisco Systems.

Elevation has investments in online real estate company Move, magazine publisher Forbes and video game developers BioWare/Pandemic Studios.

"Leading EA has always been my dream job," Riccitiello said Monday. "This is an extremely well-run company, driven by outstanding studio and publishing teams."

Since Probst took over as CEO, investors have been treated to a stock price that increased about 17 times more as Electronic Arts went from a company that generated about $100 million in annual sales to almost $3 billion.

Still, Probst recently has come under fire for relying too heavily on sequels to popular games, a charge EA executives call preposterous.

"It's not like we're putting out our sixth Spider-Man game," said EA spokesman Jeff Brown, referring to a competitor. "You'd be hard-pressed to find any studio that's placing bigger bets on new games," he added, pointing to a series of original games coming from EA's partnership with Steven Spielberg.

EA also has in its pipeline "Skate," "Army of Two" and "Spore," the latter "arguably the most anticipated game in the industry," Brown said.

EA and others in the video game industry have been navigating the transition to next-generation game consoles for the past few years. With that largely compete, it was a good time for Probst to step down.

"The smart play is to wait for a period of calm when you transition new leadership, not do it during choppy waters," Brown said.
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