Angry Bird creator Rovio names new CEO

Steven Loeb · August 29, 2014 · Short URL:

Pekka Rantala will take over in 2015, while Mikael Hed will stay on as head of Animation Studios

It's been a while since I've heard anyone really talk about Angry Birds, or its studio Rovio. It seems like the game's moment, which could only be called a phenomenon, has now seemingly passed. There's always a big question when a studio with a big, giant hit sees it begin to receed into history: what will it do to maintain that momentum?

For Rovio it means a changing of the guard.

The gaming studio announced on Friday not only that its long-time CEO Mikael Hed will be stepping down, but that his successor has already been named as well: Hartwall CEO Pekka Rantala will be taking over the job starting on January 1st of 2015.

“It has been an amazing ride and in the coming months I will be very happy to pass the hoodie to Pekka Rantala, who will take Rovio to the next level,”  Hed said in a statement. “Pekka is known to be a great leader with experience building successful global consumer brands. I will continue to play an active role and will support Pekka in any way I can to ensure Rovio’s continued success.”

Prior to his stint as CEO of Hartwall, Rantala spent 14 years at Nokia, starting out as Export Manager of Nokia Mobile Phones in EMEA, and holding positions along the way that included Managing Director and Vice President, working his way to up to Senior Vice President of Marketing, where he was responsible for Nokia's worldwide marketing campaign. 

Hed will be remaining with Rovio as a member of the company's Board of Directors. Hed has also been appointed as Chairman of Rovio Animation Studios, where he will oversee Animation and Movies. The long talked about Angry Birds movie is expected to come out sometime in 2016.

Angry Birds first debuted in 2009, and quickly became a phenomenon, eventually becoming the highest downloaded freemium game of all time. It also became a huge brand, with toys, clothing, books and the aforementioned upcoming movie. There are now 10 Angry Birds games in all, including Seasons, Rio, Space, Star Wars and Transformers. 

Like all things, however, the game has begun to struggle as time has gone on, due to increased competition and, frankly, fatigue. When looking at Apple's top 100 paid apps, only the original Angry Birds makes the list, at number 29. The free version doesn't even crack the App Store's top 100 anymore.  

Even more ominous for the company is how this is affecting the company financially. The Finish company, which had seen huge gains over the previous two years, going from €6.5 million in 2010 to €75.6 in 2011, and then more than doubling to €152.2 million in 2012, suddenly saw growth slow to a crawl and revenue flatten. Rovio saw revenue of €156 million in 2013.

Worse yet, after two years of impressive profit growth, suddenly they fell by half in 2013, going from €76.8 million to €36.5 million.

While the company called it a "foundation-building year," and said the reason that profits had fallen so rapidly was because of new investments, and new business models, the current positions of the Angry Birds apps makes it clear that it was also due to a lull in interest in the franchise.

Founded in 2003, Rovio has raised €57.86 million in funding, including €25 million in debt financing from the European Investment Bank.

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