Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Electronic Arts CEO straightens mom out at Thanksgiving

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Restructuring: You shouldn’t be afraid to do it, even more than once if you have to, and even if your own family doesn’t understand it. Just ask John Riccitiello, chief executive of videogame publisher Electronic Arts. Here’s what he said at the Reuters Global Media Summit on Tuesday:

A company that doesn’t restructure in the face of that dramatic transformation, I don’t know what they’re doing. GM had a great decade in the ’70s building large cars… They didn’t restructure in the face of what was obvious. The music industry kept telling us they wanted to buy albums, and then they tried to sue us. It didn’t serve them well. … We look at the future and we are aggressively embracing it… .

That means taking the big net loss at times, even though as Riccitiello stressed, that was on a “GAAP” basis. That means the bottom line. Still, media businesses tend to look at profit before various charges (often expressed as operating profit or other terms that are comparable to Wall Street analysts’ expectations and are said to offer a true picture of a media business’s health), and executives sometimes get irritated when you insist on reporting their bottom line performance. Why? Because a massive loss from a writedown or a restructuring shows up in the bottom line, but it is not always a sign of the business’s fundamental health.

Yet, people often take it that way if they don’t know better — including people close to home. “My mom took it that way,” Riccitiello said. “I straightened her out over Thanksgiving.”

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