RealNetworks founder Glaser steps down as CEO

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SEATTLE (AP) — Digital entertainment company RealNetworks Inc. said Wednesday that its founder stepped down as chief executive officer, but will remain chairman.

In a statement, founder Rob Glaser, 47, said that after 16 years he decided it was time for him to step away from day-to-day operations.

RealNetworks spokesman Bill Hankes said Glaser plans to focus on philanthropic and political interests, and that his decision to leave has been in the works for months.

In a statement, RealNetworks board member Jonathan Klein said that the company is “pleased” that Glaser will stay on its board.

The company’s board named Robert Kimball, 46, as president and acting CEO. Kimball also is joining the board.

Kimball joined the company in 1999 and has been a member of the senior executive team since 2003. He most recently served as general counsel and executive vice president of corporate development.

In 1994, Glaser founded what was then known as Progressive Networks. Since then, RealNetworks has grown into a publicly traded company whose offerings include the Rhapsody digital music service, RealPlayer multimedia software and RealGames casual video games business.

In the third quarter of 2009, RealNetworks earned $1.5 million on $140.3 million in revenue.

The company has not been immune to controversy, though: In August, a federal judge barred RealNetworks from selling a device that lets consumers copy DVDs to their computer hard drives, pending a full trial. Studios including Walt Disney Co. and Universal Studios had filed suit against the company, saying its RealDVD device is an illegal pirating tool that would stop consumers from buying movies on DVD that they could cheaply rent, copy and return.

This week, the judge in that case dismissed a counterclaim alleging antitrust violations that RealNetworks had filed. Hankes said the company is appealing the injunction against selling RealDVD and is still planning to participate in a trial.

RealNetworks shares added 11 cents, or 2.9 percent, to close at $3.86.