Candy Crush developer chief Riccardo Zacconi steps down

King parent company Activision Blizzard announces change in regulatory filing

After he leaves his full-time position as chief executive on July 1st, Riccardo Zacconi will become King’s chairman. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

After he leaves his full-time position as chief executive on July 1st, Riccardo Zacconi will become King’s chairman. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

 

Riccardo Zacconi is stepping down as chief executive of King, after more than 16 years leading the Candy Crush games developer.

London-based King’s parent company, Activision Blizzard, announced the change in a regulatory filing.

Activision Blizzard paid $5.9 billion to acquire King Digital Entertainment in February 2016, marking a big move into mobile gaming from the California-based company behind the Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft franchises. The deal remains one of the biggest takeovers of a UK-based tech company in recent years.

Candy Crush is one of the most profitable smartphone apps of all time. The puzzle game and its various spin-offs have stayed in the top 10 highest grossing games in the United States for more than five years.

However, Candy Crush’s popularity has waned since King’s takeover, with the company’s overall monthly active users falling from 449 million in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 272 million in the first quarter of 2019.

King had net revenues of $2.1 billion in 2018, just under a third of Activision Blizzard’s $6.8 billion total in the last financial year. In the first quarter of 2019, King posted its second consecutive quarter of audience growth after a period of decline. Players now spend an average of 38 minutes every day on Candy Crush games, the company said.

Mr Zacconi, a former management consultant, co-founded King, and has served as its chief executive since 2003. Mr Zacconi and an Activision Blizzard spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for more details about his departure on Sunday.

Remuneration

After he leaves his full-time position as chief executive on July 1st, Mr Zacconi will become King’s chairman, providing “guidance to the management” at both King and Activision Blizzard. For what is expected to be two days’ work a month as chairman, he will be paid a base salary of £100,000 a year, plus a portion of King’s profits.

According to regulatory filings published last month, Mr Zacconi was awarded total compensation for 2018 of $19.8 million, including bonuses and stock option awards, making him Activision Blizzard’s second-highest paid executive after group chief Bobby Kotick.

Mr Zacconi’s total compensation for 2018 includes a $3.6 million share of King’s profits that was contingent on his continued employment until September 2019.

Regulatory filings show that Mr Zacconi was due to receive certain performance-related stock awards on the three-year anniversary of the King acquisition’s closing in February 2019. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019