Rob Glaser, the idealistic founder of pioneering digital media company RealNetworks, is stepping down as chief executive from the company he left Microsoft to start in 1994.
Glaser is departing during a time of transition for himself and the Seattle-based company, which has struggled in recent years as first Microsoft and then Apple overtook Real’s early lead in the delivery of digital music and video.
Over the last several months Real executives and board members have been preparing a new strategic plan for the company to reorganize and refocus its efforts. Central to the discussion is the future of Real’s casual gaming business, a valuable asset that Real considered spinning off into a separate company.
Now that plan will be put in place by Bob Kimball, the company’s general counsel, who today became president and acting chief executive. A spokesman decline to preview the changes that are coming but said restructuring is too strong a characterization.
“Rob has made his own decision to leave the company and change because the timing was right for him,” spokesman Bill Hankes said. “The company has a strong management team in place to open the next chapter of the company.”
Hankes said it was “purely coincidental” that Real’s chief operating officer, John Giamatteo, resigned on Tuesday to pursue another opportunity.
Meanwhile Glaser is expecting his third child and told employees he’s looking forward to spending more time with his family and with civic pursuits.
The 47-year-old New York native has always been heavily committed to political causes – the company was originally called Progressive Networks and dedicated a portion of its profits to non-profit causes. Glaser’s also been a major supporter of his former employee, Sen. Maria Cantwell.
While left-leaning political organizations may welcome Glaser’s increased attention, Wall Street isn’t shedding tears at his departure.
Real’s stock – which never regained its Dotcom-era glory – rose nearly 4 percent to $4 in after-hours trading after Glaser’s resignation was announced.
The SEC filing:
On January 12, 2010, Robert Glaser, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RealNetworks, Inc. (the “Company”), resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer of the Company. Mr. Glaser will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Company. The Company’s Board of Directors appointed Robert Kimball as President and acting Chief Executive Officer of the Company on January 12, 2010.
Mr. Kimball, age 46, joined the Company in 1999, and prior to this appointment, he served as the Company’s Executive Vice President, Corporate Development and Law, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary since January 2009. From January 2005 to January 2009, Mr. Kimball served as Senior Vice President, Legal and Business Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of RealNetworks, and from January 2003 to January 2005, he served as Vice President, Legal and Business Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary.
On January 12, 2010, the Board of Directors of the Company expanded the size of the Board to seven members and appointed Mr. Kimball to fill the vacancy. Mr. Kimball will be presented to the Company’s shareholders at its 2010 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (the “Annual Meeting”) as a Class 3 director nominee whose term will expire at the 2012 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. At the Annual Meeting, Eric Benhamou, Edward Bleier and Kalpana Raina, current members of the Board, will also be presented to the Company’s shareholders as Class 1 director nominees whose terms will expire at the 2013 Annual Meeting of Shareholders.