Electronic Arts late yesterday named EA Sports Exec VP ANDREW WILSON CEO, representing a surprise choice to lead overall operations of the video gaming giant. Wilson beat out another former EA Sports head in EA COO PETER MOORE, as well as EA Labels President FRANK GIBEAU, for the top spot, in addition to several external candidates. Wilson, 39, has been with EA since '00, and in particular had a series of major successes with the resurrection of the company's "FIFA" franchise into the world's top-selling sports video game. "I am convinced Andrew was an inspired choice by our board and one I expect the team at EA will enthusiastically support," said EA Chair LARRY PROBST, who had been serving as interim CEO following the March resignation of JOHN RICCITIELLO. Probst added, "Andrew is the first studio executive to serve as our CEO, a testament to his blend of creative skills and business acumen." Wilson inherits the company reins as the entire gaming industry continues a turbulent transition toward more digital platforms, and with the introduction of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles coming later this fall. "I envision EA as the world's greatest games company," Wilson said in a blog post. "This is not about what we are aiming for or what we will become. Rather, it is about an unfaltering commitment to what we will be every day. This is an attitude that must drive our culture as one team." A successor to lead EA Sports has not yet been named. Wilson, according to EA's filing with the SEC, will receive an $800,000 annual base salary, a target bonus percentage of 150% of his base salary, and stock options (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
SURPRISE MOVE? Needham & Co. financial analyst SEAN MCGOWAN said of the change, "It's a little unusual that they would go with somebody internal that's not one of the more visible guys that they had been putting in front of investors. I'm not taking anything away from this guy's credibility, but he wasn't held out there as an heir apparent" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/18). Wilson said, "Inside the company, I’m a known quantity. I've had the great fortune of having worked at this company for over 13 years. I've worked internationally, I've worked in a number of areas of the company, but I grew up inside our studio system. ... When I think about our vision for the future, we have a very strong strategy around the ongoing development of the most amazing teams in the world." He added, "We’re not just a console company. We have made tremendous inroads into mobile and we are investing heavily there. We've done exceptionally well with FIFA online as a free-to-play PC product in Asia, and have announced we’re taking that to the West" (WSJ.com, 9/17).