RealNetworks CEO Bob Kimball Out, Presided Over Big Changes

3/28/11Follow @curtwoodward

More turbulence at Seattle’s RealNetworks: President and Chief Executive Bob Kimball has resigned, the company says today. Kimball had only been in the job since January 2010, although he’d been with RealNetworks (NASDAQ: RNWK) for about a dozen years.

Kimball replaced founder Rob Glaser as CEO and presided over a period of big change: The company spun off its Rhapsody music joint venture with MTV, laid off workers, and launched Unifi, a cloud-based consumer service for storing music, photos and video. In February, Kimball said the elimination of about 130 jobs marked the end of Real’s restructuring period.

That included Real doubling down on its core offerings—digital media management for consumers, and media software-as-a-service for wireless carriers. Real also acquired Canadian company Backstage Technologies as it sought to capitalize on social games for the GameHouse subsidiary. In Monday’s announcement, Kimball said the company’s transformation “removed more than $70 million in annualized operating expenses.”

You have to wonder what leads to a resignation after such a short period of time, but working through that much change and putting the company on a path forward would actually seem like a decent point to seek a different gig—or a new person to lead the company. That seems to be official line for today, but it doesn’t sound totally unbelievable.

Glaser has moved on to Accel Partners, the Silicon Valley-based VC firm, as a part-time venture partner focusing on digital media, social media, and mobile service investments. He remains Real’s chairman, but tells GeekWire’s Todd Bishop that he won’t be returning as CEO. Glaser praised Kimball in the company’s statement: “He has established a strong foundation upon which the company can build in the years to come.” Executive Vice President Mike Lunsford has been named interim CEO while the company’s board searches for Kimball’s permanent replacement.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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