Rovio Game Chief Leaves Company As Stock Crumbles

Rovio's video game chief Wilhelm Taht is leaving the firm for personal reasons with immediate effect, the company said Friday, without disclosing a reason for his departure. Mr. Taht told Reuters "it's time to pass the hoodie" but didn't elaborate on the matter, with the move itself coming a week after Rovio's stock started crumbling following a profit warning issued by the Espoo, Finland-based entertainment firm that erased over $400 million in its market capitalization. While Rovio's shares were trading at close to $10 as of last Wednesday, they're currently down to $4.52, or a third of their $13.60 IPO price from September. Mr. Taht filled various positions at Rovio since late 2014, having been elevated to the role of the Executive Vice President of Games in January of 2016.

Chief Executive Officer Kati Levoranta will take over Mr. Taht's duties in the interim until a long-term replacement is hired or promoted. Rovio's current financial predicament is largely caused by the declining licensing revenue from The Angry Birds Movie which opened in theaters nearly two years ago, though the company also forecasted declining video game turnover this year. Rovio is now expecting between $320 million and $370 million in revenue over 2018 and is effectively saying that the best-case scenario will see its sales remain flat year-on-year. The company remains adamant it's positioned for long-term growth yet industry watchers remain skeptical about that outlook, having warned investors to be cautious about making significant financial commitments to the Angry Birds maker.

The predicament pushed Rovio into major cost-cutting efforts, prompting the company to focus its resources on studios in its home country and Sweden. The London outlet with seven employees was hence shut down just over a year after being established, though it's presently unclear whether all of its projects were scrapped or only transitioned to the remaining Scandinavian units. Following the massive success of the original Angry Birds game in 2009, Rovio went on to expand its operations to merchandise and non-mobile platforms but ended up laying off a third of its employees in 2015 after finding its bottom line in the red, citing increased competition as the main reason for its lowered performance. The 2016 Angry Birds movie allowed it to bounce back, having made $350 million at the box office and surprised many industry watchers in the process of doing so. Following an IPO with a $1 billion valuation last September, Rovio lost two-thirds of its market cap but is still in the process of diversifying its portfolio despite the existing cost cuts as it's still supporting independent spinoffs such as Netflix-like on-demand game streaming platform Hatch.

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