RockYou founder and CEO Lance Tokuda is no longer leading the company, we’ve confirmed. Tokuda helped found RockYou back in 2005, and led it through several funding rounds totalling nearly $130 million. The change comes at a critical time in RockYou’s life, as the company attempts to reinvent itself and bounce back from substantial layoffs.
I spoke with RockYou COO Lisa Marino, who says that Tokuda told the company he would be stepping down last month, around the time that it pivoted to focus primarily on social gaming. A significant but undisclosed percentage of RockYou’s workforce was laid off as part of the transition, and the company hired former EA exec Jonathan Knight to serve as SVP of RockYou Games.
Marino says that Tokuda’s role is now being filled by an ‘Office of the CEO’ team that includes CFO Steve Van Horne, SVP President of Technology and Engineering Shamik Sharma, and herself, and that the company is currently in the midst of a search for a permanent replacement. Despite RockYou’s recent problems, Marino says that things have been “going really well” at the company since its pivot last month, and that it “is going to be very relevant in social games in around 70 days”.
However, Tokuda’s role change may not have been quite as smooth as RockYou is claiming. I called him to see if he had a comment of his own, and it sounded like the situation is still murky — he directed me to RockYou’s PR team, and said that he is very much still with the company (I’ve reached out to RockYou PR to firm up what his current position is). Granted, I did call him without warning so he may well have simply been caught off guard. But it does seem a little odd that he is still listed on RockYou’s management page as CEO, and that his role change was not announced as part of the press cycle around RockYou’s hiring of Knight.
Update: Marino had clarified that Tokuda is indeed still with RockYou, and that he is working on ‘innovation and strategic initiatives’, such as exploring new areas for RockYou to expand into. That might include platforms (for example, mobile) or game genres.