RealNetworks CEO Nielsen Out, Glaser Back as Interim Chief

7/3/12Follow @curtwoodward

The latest makeover at RealNetworks is over before it really got started.

This afternoon—just before a holiday, of course—the Seattle-based company reported that president and CEO Thomas Nielsen had resigned, and would be replaced on an interim basis by founder Rob Glaser.

There’s a particular emphasis on the “interim,” with Glaser reporting in the company’s announcement that he “is not a candidate for the permanent CEO position.”

The change is more bad news for Real (NASDAQ: RNWK), a survivor of the dot-com era that has struggled for years to find a new, permanent direction in digital media. The company’s sprawling interests include video games, streaming media, and mobile software services.

Nielsen joined RealNetworks in November, after a CEO search that Glaser described as the most extensive in his career. Nielsen’s first big public move came at the end of January, when he sold some of Real’s video software and some patents to Intel for $120 million.

Wall Street responded favorably to that sale, and Nielsen said more was ahead—the former Adobe executive half-joked that if he had to give an elevator pitch for what RealNetworks did, it would have to be in a very tall building.

Nielsen

“I’m basically turning over all the rugs within the company right now and looking at where there is value in each of our businesses—which ones will be strategic moving forward, and which ones won’t,” Nielsen said at the time. He foresaw more changes in the next 12 to 18 months, but he’s out of the job just six months later.

Real reported that Nielsen resigned, but it’s clear there was disagreement about how he was proceeding in the job.

Glaser

“The board and Thomas mutually agreed that the CEO position wasn’t the right fit,” Glaser said in the company’s release. That’s an interesting note, since Nielsen was on the board, and because Glaser had said he would be taking on more of an advisory chairman’s role.

Real declined to make Glaser available for any follow-up questions, but indicated he may be available to talk publicly about the change soon.

The company also said that it did not expect any more leadership changes. There have been plenty of those in recent months, with CFO Michael Eggers resigning this spring and previous CEO Bob Kimball leaving in early 2011. The company has laid off hundreds of people since 2009, part of an earlier round of refocusing maneuvers.

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

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  • Richard Stayne

    When will Rob Glaser realize his company is a total disaster, all based on his egotism. The stock is basically illiquid and his losing “strategies” are evident. This company is toast and will die slowly over time. Glaser is an overweight, overpaid loser. Looks like Microsoft won.