Peter Kafka

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News Corp.’s IGN Head Roy Bahat Leaves


Roy Bahat, who heads up News Corp.’s IGN Web unit, is leaving the company.

Bahat had spent more than a year trying to engineer a spinoff of the business, which publishes Web sites that cater to dudes who like video games and other stuff dudes like. News Corp. also publishes this Web site.

The plan included an acquisition of rival dudes-and-games site UGO in May 2011. But the spinoff never happened, so Bahat is heading out. In his words, via a memo he just sent employees: “It has become clear that now is the time to refresh the process of looking at strategic options for this business.” He’ll stay on as an IGN board member.

Bahat’s plan, endorsed by News Corp.’s digital head Jon Miller, was to cleave off IGN from its parent company, under the thesis that it could grow faster on its own.

The idea was to find private equity backers or other financial players to pour money into a standalone company, and News Corp. would retain a stake in the new venture.

From my 2011 story on the would-be spinoff:

Unlike other Web moves News Corp. has been making, the plan to move IGN outside of News Corp.’s corporate walls isn’t a disposal of an impaired asset. People familiar with IGN’s operations say it is growing and profitable.

I’m told the company expects to earn more than $10 million this year on revenues of around $100 million. The idea is that IGN will be able to grow much faster if it isn’t operating inside Rupert Murdoch’s company.

My understanding is that News Corp. continues to like the idea, in theory. But it has been … distracted in the last year. At various times, I’ve heard that Bahat had rounded up the investors he needed to get the deal done, or that it was dead in the water, and those stories frequently reversed in the span of a month.

Apparently Bahat doesn’t want to wait around to see how the tale ends.

From: Roy Bahat
Sent: Friday, August 17, 2012 12:13 PM
To: All
Subject: IGN’s next steps

All,

Some hard news to share, so I’ll get right to it. After a lot of thought, I’ve made the difficult choice to leave my role as President. I’ll remain on the IGN Board.

David Martin, our CFO, will also become Acting President as IGN continues on its path of exploring strategic options for the future. David has my and our Board’s full confidence. Before joining IGN, he created and ran a company about our size, and he’s passionate about what we do. He’s quickly earned the respect of our leadership team, righted our finance group, and gotten particularly involved with eSports and other growing areas of our business.

We’ve all worked hard so IGN’s Way is about more than any one person. Our “bet factory” distributes responsibility as widely as possible, making the organization resilient for the future – including transitions like this one. I know you’ll continue to drive and evolve our values of fire, greatness, innovation, multiplayer, and irreverence. I can’t wait to see just how.

From our Code-Foo gang to guys like Peer and Tal who have been here from the first day, you are what has made IGN a joy to lead these past five years. I’ve been thrilled to see how we’ve grown – from one screen to almost 20, from being mostly about text and pictures to having two billion video views last year, from being in too many businesses to focusing on media, from a mostly-U.S. business to a real presence in 40+ countries, starting a crazy new eSports business, and reaching 50% more people every month – to continue to command the largest audience of video gamers in the world. (And yes, Ric, the greatest audience of Better Men 18-34, too.) IGN can now become a truly mainstream media company.

So why am I leaving? It has become clear that now is the time to refresh the process of looking at strategic options for this business. David will do that and more. He’ll work closely with Jack Kennedy and Jon Miller at News Corp., who will lead our efforts to explore the strategic options that will best position IGN for success in the future.

You all have made this the most educational, enjoyable role I’ve ever held – it was more than just a job – and I’m excited to see what you do next. With a new generation of game consoles launching, and so many platforms opening up to our content, the next few years should put the wind at IGN’s back. We’ll all be off to that “next level” thing. I’m going to start by taking a couple months to hang out with my family, then continue on my slow attempt to learn to code, maybe help out with a few startups here and there… and I’m honored to stay involved with IGN. In my role on the board, I’ll continue to work with the team here on what’s to come.

I hope to stay in all of your orbits. You’re going places.

I’ll do an All-Hands in a few minutes, at 12.30pm PST, to give you a chance to ask questions. Look out for a calendar invite with details.

Yours, truly,

Roy


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— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus