John Riccitiello has found out what most of us who play video games already know–it’s hard to walk away from a good game. Riccitiello announced in a press release this afternoon that he is re-joining Electronic Arts as CEO. Riccitiello served as president and COO of EA before leaving the video game publisher in 2004 to co-found Elevation Partners, where he served as managing partner. His departure doesn’t necessarily leave Elevation in a lurch. The roster of the private equity firm consists of Roger McNamee and Mark Bodnick (both formerly of Silver Lake Partners), former Apple Computer CFO Mark Anderson, former Blackstone exec Bret Pearlman and Bono, the lead singer of U2.
Riccitiello delivered the opening keynote address at the Buyouts’ Symposium West conference in San Francisco in November in which he talked about how private equity firms should move away from the tradition of hiring banker whiz kids and instead should focus on bringing in operators like himself. His point was that it’s a dog-eat-dog industry out there and that firms need to distinguish themselves from the competition. He illustrated this by showing a picture of Lance Armstrong in 2005 and asking who came in second and third in the Tour de France. No one knew (Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich). And now that Riccitiello is back at EA, his own tour in the private equity realm may one day just be a footnote.