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Jenson, 51, had worked at EA for six years. In a statement, he said, “It’s time for me to write the next chapter in my career.” EA said it would be announcing a successor to Jenson shortly.
On the surface, this move isn’t hard to interpret. Last week, EA CEO John Riccitiello announced that he was going outside the industry to hire John Pleasants as his chief operating officer and president of global publishing. Pleasants, the former CEO of Revolution Health Group, had no experience in the video game industry. If I were Jenson, I wouldn’t like being passed over for such a job, particularly since the one who beat me out won’t have much to contribute to EA for months.
Jenson joined EA in 2002 after working as the chief financial officer for Amazon.com for three years. He will stay on EA’s board to assist with the year-end closing and to help with the CFO transition.
EA is in the midst of a hostile takeover bid for Take-Two Interactive. It has offered $2 billion to take over the publisher of games such as the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV. Given the sensitivity of the timing, I’m not sure I would call Jenson-Pleasants a fair trade. Jenson is an experienced game industry executive.
You could say that EA’s financial performance hasn’t been stellar in the past few years. But that’s not necessarily something you lay at the feet of the CFO. EA already had a change in management — Ricitiello came aboard as CEO just a year ago, replacing Larry Probst — to address the performance problem. But as EA navigates turbulent waters, I would rather opt for someone with experience.
Update: EA spokeswoman Holly Rockwood said that the COO job has been in plans since Riccitiello came on a year ago. She said that Jenson had never been mentioned in the past as a candidate for that job. She also said that Jenson is support of the Take-Two bid and his departure has no bearing on the bid, which will continue.
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