Elevation loses co-founder Riccitiello

Riccitiello’s move to his former employer, videogame maker Electronic Arts, closely follows the Elevation’s loss of executive-in-residence, music veteran Les Bider.

John Riccitiello, a managing director and co-founder of Menlo Park-based upstart Elevation Partners, has left the firm to return to his former company: Redwood City, California-based videogame company Electronic Arts. He will be the company’s chief executive officer and will join its board of directors.

Riccitiello was president and chief operating officer of Electronic Arts from October of 1997 until April 2004. He used his experience in the videogame industry to help Elevation secure deals in that area, including its debut transaction in November of 2005. That deal involved the merger of videogame developers Pandemic Studios, a Los Angeles- and Brisbane, Australia-based company known for its action-adventure video titles like “Destroy All Humans”, and Bioware Corp., an Edmonton, Canada-based company that specialises in role-playing games like “Dragon Age” and “Jade Empire”. Elevation invested about $300 million in the combined company—Bioware/Pandemic Studios—and Ricitiello became its interim chief executive officer.

Riccitiello’s move to Electronic Arts will become effective on April 2. “Leading [Electronic Arts] has always been my dream job,” Riccitiello said in a statement.

“The employees and partners at Elevation and our extended family of portfolio companies congratulate John on his election by the [Electronic Arts] board of directors to the  position of chief executive officer,” Elevation said in a statement. “John is a hugely talented executive in the video game industry, and he is the perfect person to lead [Electronic Arts] during this period of dramatic change in the industry. We look forward to continuing to work with John and his team at [Electronic Arts].”

Riccitiello’s move follows another loss at Elevation this week. Music veteran Les Bider left his position as the firm’s “executive-in-residence” to become chief strategist at Los Angeles-based venture firm ITU Partners. Elevation gained another executive-in-residence, Ted Meisel, last week. Meisel is a veteran of the online industry and is the former chief executive officer of global Internet search service provider Overture Services (now Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions). He will be an advisor to Elevation and to its portfolio companies.

Another Elevation co-founder also made news recently. Fred Anderson, formerly the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Apple Computer, resigned from his position on Apple’s board of directors last October following the completion a three-month investigation into the company’s stock option practices.  “Stock option grants made on 15 dates between 1997 and 2002 appear to have grant dates that precede the approval of those grants,” Apple said in a statement at the time.

“Mr. Anderson, who served as CFO from 1996 until 2004, informed the company that he believes it is in Apple’s best interests that he resign from the board at this time,” the statement said.

Elevation Partners invests in the media, entertainment and consumer industries. It is currently investing its $1.9 billion debut fund, which closed in August of 2006. Its partners include Bret Pearlman, the former senior managing director of The Blackstone Group, Marc Bodnick, a founding principal of Silver Lake Partners and Roger McNamee, a co-founder of Silver Lake Partners and Integral Capital Partners. Irish rock star and U2 lead singer Bono is also a co-founder and managing partner.

Elevation invested in Forbes Media, the publisher of Forbes magazine, Forbes.com and other media entities, last August. The details of the transaction were not disclosed.