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Rob Glaser: It's been real

January 13, 2010 |  3:56 pm
Rob Glaser
Rob Glaser in 1997, when his company was called Progressive Network. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Rob Glaser, the intense, pull-no-punches chief executive of RealNetworks, this afternoon said he is stepping down as head of a company he founded in 1994.

The Seattle company said it appointed Bob Kimball, its general counsel, as interim CEO while its board seeks a permanent replacement. RealNetworks operates Rhapsody, an online music service, as well as RealArcade, a site for casual games.

Glaser, who became a millionaire working for Microsoft in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gave no reason for his abrupt resignation after 16 years at RealNetworks. Some speculate that his departure resulted from butting heads with his board of directors.

RealNetworks' shares, which traded as high as $88.87 a decade ago, closed at $3.86 a share Wednesday, up 11 cents. It gained another 14 cents in after-hours trading following the resignation.

In a post to his 1,633 Facebook friends, Glaser foreshadowed a structural shift at RealNetworks, referencing "an extremely rigorous strategy review and ... a very exciting road map for the future that you'll hear about in the days and weeks ahead."

To read the full text of Glaser's note, click the "continue reading" link below.

Glaser sent the following note to his Facebook contacts, as well as RealNetworks' 1,600 employees:


Today we're announcing something that I've been thinking about for a long time. Nearly 16 years after founding RealNetworks in 1994, I've decided to step aside from day to day operations. Accordingly, we're announcing today that I am relinquishing my CEO job and will focus on my role as Chairman of Real's board.

A decision of this magnitude produces a complex bundle of feelings. First, incredible gratitude for the amazing colleagues I've had the opportunity to work with during a chapter that has turned out to be a third of my life. I am incredibly proud of the creativity, persistence, and commitment to excellence that our teams around the world bring to the table every day.

Second, deep appreciation for the billions (yes, billions!) of consumers that use or have used our products, the hundreds of millions of consumers that use our products every year, and the tens of millions of consumers that use our products and services every month. I am also grateful for the trust placed in us by our fantastic carrier and other distribution partners. Very few companies get to have the global reach and impact that we do.

Third, great confidence in the team that will be running the company day-to-day. As we kick off a search for my permanent successor, Real will be led by Bob Kimball as Acting CEO. Bob is one of the most passionate and lucid executives I've ever had an opportunity to work with, and given his decade of leadership at Real, I am confident that the company won't skip a beat.

Fourth, the bittersweet feelings that come from closing the book on a 16 year labor of love, emphasis on both labor and love. I feel very fortunate that as Chairman I will still get to carry the torch for everything that has made and will continue to make our company great. And with 2 small children and a third on the way, I feel very lucky that the rhythm of my life can now change, at least for a time, to allow our family to do some things that might not otherwise have been possible. I also look forward to spending more time on civic and other projects outside of Real.

While there's never an ideal time to make a change like this, this is as good a time as any. We've weathered the brunt of the Great Recession and have done what we said we wanted to do, which was to keep our core solid while also building for the future. We've also undertaken an extremely rigorous strategy review and have a very exciting road map for the future that you'll hear about in the days and weeks ahead. And the start of a new decade is a good time, poetically, to pass the baton.

Thanks again for everything, and I hope to see all of you soon.


-- Alex Pham