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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
By Terry Lefton
• Age: 37
• Titles: Executive vice president and general manager, North American Publishing
• Company: EA Sports
• Education: B.S., business administration, USC; MBA, Santa Clara University
• Family: Wife, Solveig; daughter Olivia, 2, and twins Lars and Penelope, 1
• Career: Has spent his entire career at EA, starting out in 1991; named senior VP North American Marketing, in October 2002; promoted to executive VP, North American Publishing, in September 2005.
• Last vacation: Seattle last summer
• Last book read: “Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission” by Hampton Sides
• Last movie seen: “The Constant Gardener”
• Pet peeve: People who are late
• Fantasy job: Flying as a bush pilot in Alaska
• Business advice: Follow your passion in business, and always listen to your customers — they’ll keep you honest.
Frank Gibeau grew up "a hacker and a gamer" in Silicon Valley. So it shouldn't be surprising that Electronic Arts has been his only employer.
After landing a job at EA in 1991 as a game-tester and marketing assistant, he's risen through the ranks of the video-game company's marketing department as EA has grown into a $3 billion powerhouse.
While EA's scale and scope have grown exponentially since Gibeau was steered there by a newspaper ad, its culture has remained constant.
"We're still all about making great games, and since we are in a technology market we are about leading change by embracing it," Gibeau said. "[Game] platforms change. Right now we're excited about making great games for cell phones or online."
That commitment is what's kept Gibeau at EA long enough to become executive vice president and general manager of North American Publishing.
With as much as a third of EA's revenue coming from sports games annually and the next generation of sports fans sampling major properties through video screens, EA Sports is now as influential a sports brand as Nike or ESPN, especially with the exclusive long-term NFL deal that Gibeau helped cement. Gibeau has helped instill a culture where competing with Adidas or Nike is just as important as besting the other video-game brands.
Television has long been the cash cow of sports. With the line between sports video games and sports TV blurring, Gibeau may soon be presiding over another generation of exponential growth involving real-time online play and mobile gaming.
"TV and video games will collide in this next generation of hardware," Gibeau said. "The pace of this industry is remarkable, but I expect it to change more over the next five years than it has over the past 10."
From the outside, EA looks like an amalgam of a media concern and a packaged-goods firm. Gibeau likens it more to a combined technology and entertainment company.
"To succeed here, you have to believe that games and interactive entertainment are the new rock 'n' roll," he said. "You have to be comfortable with how fast technology markets move. It's entertainment, which is always hard to get right with consistency, and it's technology, which is always changing. That's our double whammy."
With marketers struggling to reach video-gamers, they are trying to develop an advertising and sponsorship model that would get their brands inside of EA's hot titles. Gibeau helps keep everyone at EA focused.
"We're pretty close to cracking the advertising code, and there's clearly loads of opportunity there," he said. "But if we don't continue to make great games, that won't really matter, will it?"