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Chillingo founders "hard to replace", Gibeau could be next exec to leave EA

As Criterion, Chillingo and PopCap founders leave EA, one analyst reckons newly-appointed mobile boss Frank Gibeau could be next to leave.

It's only the second week of January but the co-founders of three of Electronic Arts' business divisions have announced their respective departures from the company - and they may soon be joined by another exec, according to Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter.

Chillingo's Chris Byatte and Joe Wee, Criterion's Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry, and PopCap's Jason Kapalka and Dave Roberts have all walked from the company.

"The Chillingo founders are really the glue that holds that organization together, so I think their departure is a big deal," Pachter told VG247. "I don’t know the Criterion guys well, but I would say that the departure of the two co-founders is less of a big deal, as they haven’t worked on any original IP since Black. They are really talented, but I think that the remaining crew is capable of backfilling."

Pachter suggested that if EA had wanted to keep the departed execs it could have offered a deal "that would have been hard to walk away from." Yesterday, Chillingo's Ed Rumley suggested Byatte and Wee's departures would not directly impact the business, but Pachter was sceptical.

"The Chillingo guys are a lot harder to replace than many of the others, since Chillingo is such a small team and had such a high success rate," he said.

Last year EA juggled executives after the departure of CEO John Riccitiello, with Andrew Wilson taking the top position, leaving Peter Moore as COO, Patrick Soderlund as VP of EA Studios and Frank Gibeau as boss of EA Mobile.

When asked if he thought Peter Moore may also be considering leaving, Pachter replied: "I don’t expect any high profile departures, other than Frank Gibeau. He was reassigned to a much less influential position and promptly sold all of his stock, so I think he is planning a move soon."

Gibeau had previously been responsible for overseeing all the EA labels; EA Sports, EA Games, Maxis and BioWare.

Pachter continued: "Peter is an old guy and has a lot of money, so he’s probably ready to stop working and start enjoying his life, but I would expect him to stick around a couple more years to help Andrew ease into the CEO role. They are close, and I think Peter has agreed to help mentor Andrew."

He also suggested that as EA continues to streamline they should cut a few more titles including NBA and NHL franchises.

"The business is positioned to be a lot more profitable this year, and I expect the next generation console launches to allow the industry to see sales growth next year," he added.

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