Electronic Arts CFO is leaving company

Warren Jenson, the chief financial officer of Electronic Arts since 2002, is leaving the video game publisher in the midst of its hostile buyout bid for smaller rival Take-Two.

EA did not give a reason for Jenson's departure; a spokeswoman said Monday it was a "mutual decision" between him and Chief Executive John Riccitiello. After leaving the company in 2005, Riccitiello rejoined EA as CEO in April 2007, replacing Larry Probst, who'd been at the company's helm for 16 years.

"It's pretty clear that he's building his own team," said Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. EA also named a chief operating officer earlier this month, hiring John Pleasants, who also heads the company's global publishing operations.

The company said Monday it plans to announce a new CFO "shortly."

Redwood City, Calif.-based EA has offered to buy Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive Software in a $2 billion tender offer that expires April 11. EA spokeswoman Holly Rockwood said Jenson's departure is not related to the Take-Two bid, which turned hostile earlier this month after Take-Two repeatedly rejected the $26-per-share offer as the wrong price at the wrong time.

Jenson, 51, will stay to help the company close its fiscal year, which ends this month. While EA didn't say whether it has found a replacement, Pachter said the way the company's press release is worded "means they have somebody."

Since joining EA, Riccitiello has reorganized the company into a city-state model, with four divisions and distinct, independent development studios. He is focusing on slashing spending at a time when the cost of developing new games is skyrocketing well into the millions.

Jenson's replacement, Pachter said, will have to be a pragmatic, hands-on, "almost dictatorial" CFO, to execute Riccitiello's spending cuts. Jenson served as finance chief at a broad range of companies, including Amazon.com, before joining EA. He was also CFO at Delta Air Lines and at NBC.

During his tenure, EA enjoyed its status as the world's largest video game publisher, but the company's stock price has stagnated in recent months. It is far below a record high of more than $71 in March 2005.

He's leaving EA at a turning point not only for the company but also for the video game industry, which by some measures is eclipsing the global music market. In the U.S., retail sales of video game hardware, software and accessories hit nearly $18 billion in 2007, according to the NPD Group.

Shares of Electronic Arts jumped $1.35, or 2.8%, to $49.81 in morning trading. The stock is down nearly 15% since the start of the year.

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