Rob Glaser, shown delivering an address at the 2004 Consumer Electronics… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)
Rob Glaser, the pull-no-punches founder of RealNetworks Inc., on Wednesday announced his resignation as chief executive.
The Seattle pioneer of online media said it appointed general counsel Robert Kimball as interim CEO while its board seeks a permanent replacement.
RealNetworks operates Rhapsody, an online music service that it jointly owns with Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks, as well as RealArcade, a site for casual games. The company developed one of the first Internet music players, RealAudio, in 1995. Two years later, it debuted its online video players with RealPlayer.
Glaser, who became a millionaire working for Microsoft Corp. in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gave no reason for his abrupt resignation and made no mention of his plans.
RealNetworks' shares, which traded as high as $88.87 a decade ago, closed at $3.86 a share Wednesday, up 11 cents. They gained 14 cents more in extended trading after the resignation. Glaser, 48, is the company's largest shareholder, owning nearly 37% of its stock. He will remain chairman.
In a post Wednesday to his 1,633 Facebook contacts, Glaser hinted at an upcoming reorganization at RealNetworks, citing "an extremely rigorous strategy review and . . . a very exciting road map for the future that you'll hear about in the days and weeks ahead."
Once a highflying technology firm credited with being ahead of its time, RealNetworks has had trouble regaining traction in recent years.
Glaser "had a really progressive vision about how content would be sold online," said Alan Citron, who worked at RealNetworks from 1999 to 2001 and is now president of Buzzmedia Inc. in Los Angeles. "Back in the mid-1990s, he was already thinking about the business models for online music. But he had a hard time turning that vision into reality, possibly because he was ahead of his time."
A hard-driving, mercurial executive, Glaser was always eager to cut to the chase, Citron said. "He had no interest in the trappings. He just wanted to get down to business."
A spokesperson for Glaser said he was unavailable for comment.