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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

July 3, 2012 at 1:14 PM

RealNetworks CEO resigns, Glaser returns

The revolving door at RealNetworks continues to spin.

RealNetworks Chief Executive Thomas Nielsen resigned today, less than a year after the former Adobe executive took over the Seattle media technology company.

Founder Rob Glaser is taking the helm again, as interim chief executive until Nielsen’s permanent replacement is found. Nielsen took the job in November.

“The board and Thomas mutually agreed that the CEO position wasn’t the right fit,” Glaser said in the announcement. “We thank Thomas for the contributions he has made in moving RealNetworks forward and wish him well in his new endeavors.”

Nielsen had barely unpacked. Real didn’t finalize his 2012 compensation plan until May 9.

Nielsen’s predecessor, Bob Kimball, lasted just over a year in the job. Kimball, formerly the company’s president, took the position on an interim basis in January 2010 after Glaser stepped down. Kimball became chief executive in that July and resigned in March 2011.

Other executives have also jumped ship recently. Chief Financial Officer Michael Eggers and Chief Legal Officer Tracy Daw resigned in April and Chief Strategy Officer Hank Skorny left last September.

Real’s providing Nielsen with a severance package. He’ll get $37,500 per month for the next 18 months plus $168,299, which is a pro rated portion of his 2012 bonus plan. Altogether he’s receiving $843,299 in cash.

Real’s also accelerating the vesting of Nielsen’s stock options by a year, and giving him an extra six months to exercise them. He received options on a total of 880,000 shares when he was hired.

The payout isn’t huge compared to what some chief executives take out the door, but it’s not bad considering how much money Real has been losing.

In the last quarter, ending March 31, the company lost $17 million on sales of $67 million. During the same period last year it lost $12 million on sales of $87.3 million.

Real pioneered online streaming digital media but its leadership was eclipsed by Microsoft, Apple and others.

After a series of reorganizations in recent years, Real’s primary focus is now software and services sold to big customers like phone companies. It also a relatively large games business and continues to produce consumer products such as RealPlayer.

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