Your Haas Network
John Riccitiello, BS 81
Chief Executive Officer
Electronic Arts, Inc.
Redwood City, Calif.
John Riccitiello's job affords him the rarest of opportunity in business: to lead an elite team of artists and engineers who breathe life into the video games of Electronic Arts, the venerable company that produces blockbuster games such as Madden NFL and The Sims.
"There aren't a lot of companies like EA," explains Riccitiello, BS 81. "There are companies like Google or Microsoft that are pure technology. With companies like Disney, the heart of the company is animation. EA is obviously a combination of both and it's an odd mix -- a challenging mix -- and it's never really been done successfully to scale before."
Riccitiello, who started undergraduate classes at Haas in 1977, credits Haas School professors, older MBA students, and the senior executives who lectured at the school with opening the world and the mind of a working class kid from Erie, Pennsylvania, who spent some of his post-high school days installing linoleum.
After graduation, Riccitiello traveled the world, moving up the corporate ladder from his first job with Clorox, where he relocated to Dusseldorf, to a post as group marketing director with Pepsi in Cypress, and then to the United Kingdom as CEO of Sara Lee's worldwide bakery division.
Then, in 1996, shortly after the birth of his first daughter, Riccitiello was recruited by Electronic Arts CEO Larry Probst. Riccitiello, who was by then CEO of Wilson Sports in Chicago, packed his bags and returned to the Bay Area to become president and COO. He then spent seven years growing market share, diversifying the product portfolio, and strengthening international business.
In 2004, Riccitiello left EA to co-found Elevation Partners, a private equity firm focused on media and entertainment. But when Probst decided to step down as CEO of Electronic Arts earlier this year, it was Riccitiello he hand picked to replace him at the $3 billion video game publisher.
A video game fan as a kid, Riccitiello tries out all of EA's new games. His favorite of the moment is Spore, which lets players guide a species as it moves up the evolutionary ladder. He says, "It's interesting for me to dig into the products and I think it's essential for the CEOs of any entertainment companies to truly like them."