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Riccitiello in 2011
|Education||Bachelor of Science|
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley|
|Known for||CEO of Electronic Arts, Unity Technologies|
|Net worth||$10 million|
John Riccitiello is an American businessman who served as President and Chief Operating Officer (from 1997 to 2004), CEO  (from 2007 to 2013) of Electronic Arts (EA); currently CEO of Unity Technologies (since 2014).
He then worked in a variety of consumer product companies including The Clorox Company (Brand Manager), PepsiCo (Group Marketing Director), and Häagen-Dazs International (Managing Director). He accepted his first CEO position in 1993 when he became President and CEO of Wilson Sporting Goods. In 1996 he became President and CEO of Sara Lee Corporation's Sara Lee Bakery Worldwide.
From October 1997 through April 2004, Riccitiello became President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Electronic Arts. Responsible for global publishing, online, and corporate functions, his background in global consumer marketing helped facilitate the expansion of EA's video games into the worldwide mass market.
During his tenure, EA emerged as the world's largest maker of video games, with sales rising from about $673 million in 1997 to more than $3 billion in fiscal year 2004. Profit rose from $51.3 million in 1997 to $577 million in fiscal year 2004.
Significant business milestones during this period included EA's online gaming partnership with AOL, a dual joint venture with Square, Japan's most successful interactive entertainment software company, and a general transition towards the increased importance of larger franchises such as the Madden NFL line of sports games. Riccitiello and studio chief Don Mattrick also notably encouraged the company to get behind The Sims, developed by Will Wright, which later became one of the best-selling EA game series of all time.
Riccitiello left EA in early 2004 to co-found Elevation Partners, a Private Equity capital fund, along with Silver Lake Partners co-founder Roger McNamee, U2 lead singer Bono, and a number of Silicon Valley investors. Riccitiello served as Managing Director. Focusing on the media and entertainment business, the firm made a number of large-scale investments, most noteworthy a $400 million investment in 2005 into Pandemic Studios and BioWare. Both Pandemic and BioWare were acquired by EA in 2007 for $860 million.
Elevation has gone on to invest in Media, Internet, and Entertainment companies such as Forbes, SDI Media Group, Palm, Facebook and Yelp.
Return to EA
He inherited a number of significant challenges at EA upon his return. Profits had declined, an increasing expense line was beginning to outpace revenue growth, and the company was largely unprepared for the digital transformation facing the gaming industry as a whole. According to Elevation's McNamee, “Internet access was going to change the delivery of content. EA at the time was incredibly happy doing what they were doing, but John’s feeling was that they were going to get killed by the change.”
Riccitiello has been credited with diversifying Electronic Arts' business model, and leading the company's shift from consumer packaged goods into the digital delivery of content via console, PC, tablet and mobile devices. A few months after becoming EA’s CEO in 2007, Riccitiello called a meeting of EA’s top executives to address the company’s need to transform itself to survive. Riccitiello described the company’s position at the time: “Our game quality was down, and our costs were high. I could see a fundamental digital transformation coming to our industry that we were not even prepared for. The hardest part was that we were in deep denial.”
In an August, 2011 blog post, Riccitiello spoke publicly about the transformation: “Our quality has risen dramatically. We’ve built an $800m+ digital business while pushing down operating costs ... Now, we are switching from defense to offense. We’re focusing on building our intellectual properties/franchises into year-round business. We’ve established our own platform, Origin, and we continue to grow our digital business."
EA generated $1.6 billion of digital revenue in 2012 and a #1 ranking in annual revenue for Apple iOS. Qualitatively, under Riccitiello's tenure EA ascended in metacritic's rankings from #5 in 2010, #4 in 2011, to #1 in 2012. Profitability was up each year from fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2012, but fell below projections in 2013.
At a 2011 commencement address at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, Riccitiello said "we knew it would be hard but we had no idea how hard. We knew the enormous investments would be unsettling to investors … and that the return would be a long way off. Perhaps most painfully – we had to do these three hard things while the press and many financial analysts told us we were crazy – that the cutting we were doing was great, but that the investment in digital was just not a good idea. It proved very hard to hear the negative drumbeat from out there in the public while tackling very hard challenges at work. Like everyone else who has had a long business career, I’ve had first-hand experience with failure – and I’ve had the opportunity to learn and recover from it. Everyone fails. Everyone falls down. Everyone loses a game or gets a bad grade … When it happens, fail well."
In March 2013, EA announced Riccitiello would step down as CEO at the end of the month. Executive Chairman Larry Probst said, "John’s tenure at EA has been marked by bold decisions, a big vision for online games, a passion for product quality, and an enduring respect for the people who work here. John made an indelible mark on our culture and shaped many of our most successful leaders."
In March 2013 he resigned, and chairman Larry Probst was named executive chairman while the company searched for a replacement. In October 2014, Unity Technologies founder and CEO David Helgason named Riccitiello as his successor in the role of chief executive.
He currently serves on the Board of Councilors of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and on the Board of Directors of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
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- Lazarus, George (February 16, 1996). "Wilson Ceo Pops Up At Sara Lee". Chicago Tribune.
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