Former BCG partner James Whitehurst named interim CEO of Unity

10 October 2023 3 min. read
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James Whitehurst, a former partner at Boston Consulting Group, has been named interim CEO, president, and board member of Unity Technologies, a San Francisco-headquartered video game engine developer.

John Riccitiello will retire from his roles as CEO, chairman, and member of the board, effective immediately, the company announced on Monday.

Riccitiello has served as CEO of Unity since 2014, when he succeeded Unity co-founder David Helgason. Riccitiello was previously CEO of video game company EA from 2007 to 2013, when he was forced to resign over the company’s poor financial performance. He was also previously COO of EA, CEO of Sara Lee Corporation, and CEO of Wilson Sporting Goods.

During his tenure, Riccitiello oversaw Unity’s $1.3-billion IPO on the NYSE in September 2020. The IPO valued the firm at $13.7 billion. Despite consistent revenue and headcount growth, however, the IPO filing revealed losses over $162.3 million in 2019, and consistent losses since Unity's founding.

Former BCG partner James Whitehurst named interim CEO of Unity

Unity in September announced changes to its pricing model which would enact price increases on developers based on the number of downloads their games receive. This resulted in significant backlash from developers and a large amount of bad press and reputational damage. Despite a partial walkback of the changes by Unity, numerous developers have pledged to switch engines because of an irreparable destruction of trust.

“John has led Unity through incredible growth over the last nearly 10 years, helping us transition from a perpetual license to a subscription model, enabling developers to monetize, building other game services to serve our creator community, leading us through an IPO and positioning us as a pioneer in the developer community,” said Roelof Botha, lead independent director of the Unity board, who succeeds Riccitiello as chairman. “Unity would not be where it is today without the impact of his contributions. I remain excited for the future of Unity.”

Whitehurst brings more than 30 years of experience as a C-suite executive and management consultant. He most recently spent two years at IBM, where he served as president and then senior advisor following IBM’s acquisition of his previous firm, Red Hat. Whitehurst was president and CEO of Red Hat, a provider of open source enterprise IT products and services, from 2008 to 2020.

Earlier in his career, Whitehurst spent six years at Delta Air Lines, latterly serving as chief operating officer. He began his career at Boston Consulting Group, where he spent 12 years and was latterly a partner in the Atlanta office. He also held corporate development leadership roles across offices including Chicago, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Whitehurst currently serves on the boards of United Airlines and Amplitude.

He has an MBA from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science from Rice University.

“I am honored to join Unity as Interim CEO and President at this important time in its evolution,” Whitehurst said. “With the Company’s experienced leadership and passionate employees, I am confident that Unity is well-positioned to continue enhancing its platform, strengthening its community of customers, developers and partners, and focusing on its growth and profitability goals.”

Unity said in a press release that it will work with an executive search firm to find a permanent CEO.

The company also reaffirmed its previously announced third quarter 2023 guidance and said it will release its Q3 results on November 9.