John Riccitiello has left Unity. Former IBM president James Whitehurst has been appointed interim CEO and president.
The game engine maker announced the move earlier today and said that Riccitiello is retiring as president, CEO, chairman and a member of the company’s board of directors straight away.
Riccitiello will continue to advise Unity to ensure a smooth transition, the company said. Former IBM president James M. Whitehurst is now interim CEO, president and a member of the board. Lead independent director of the Unity board Roelof Botha has been appointed chairman.
“It’s been a privilege to lead Unity for nearly a decade and serve our employees, customers, developers and partners, all of whom have been instrumental to the company’s growth,” said Riccitiello. “I look forward to supporting Unity through this transition and following the company’s future success.”
Unity also reaffirmed its previously announced third quarter 2023 guidance as part of the announcement. It said that its board will now start looking for a permanent CEO.
Interim CEO and president James Whitehurst is a seasoned tech and public company exec, having served as senior advisor and president at IBM and also president and CEO from 2008 to 2020.
“I am honoured to join Unity as interim CEO and president at this important time in its evolution,” said Whitehurst. “With the company’s experienced leadership and passionate employees, I am confident that Unity is well-positioned to continue enhancing its platform, strengthening its community of customers, developers and partners, and focusing on its growth and profitability goals. I look forward to working closely with the Board and our talented global team to execute on our strategy, and I anticipate a seamless transition.”
New Unity chairman Roelof Botha added: “Working with Unity under John’s leadership has been one of the highlights of my career. John joined the Unity board in 2013 and stepped in to lead the company in 2014, at a time when we faced significant challenges.”
“John has led Unity through incredible growth over the last nearly 10 years, helping us transition from a perpetual license to a subscription model, enabling developers to monetise, building other game services to serve our creator community, leading us through an IPO and positioning us as a pioneer in the developer community. Unity would not be where it is today without the impact of his contributions. I remain excited for the future of Unity.”
Riccitello has overseen a wild few weeks as Unity boss after the company announced a controversial set of pricing policy changes that would charge Unity customers per install.
Developers were furious, and told us that behind the scenes Unity account managers were offering a waiver on the fees if they used Unity’s LevelPlay ad products. This was widely interpreted as a move to try and leverage its huge customer base to take on UA rival AppLovin.
Developers later organised and began a Unity boycott, switching off all Unity ad products in their games in protest.
Unity later apologised and dialled back some of the pricing policies. It was Unity Create boss Marc Whitten, rather than Riccitiello, who announced the part-reversal, and later tackled questions from the developer community about the policy changes.
We reported last week that the Unity boycott had worked, with its ad network and UA business taking a hit. Its share price has been suffering too – it was trading at around $38 at the time of the Runtime Fee announcement, and at the time of writing is just under $30.