A mainstay of the games business for 19 years, Moore looks back on launching Dreamcast, Xbox 360 and 'FIFA' Ultimate Team before returning to the UK for his dream job
A mainstay of the games business for 19 years, Moore looks back on launching Dreamcast, Xbox 360 and 'FIFA' Ultimate Team before returning to the UK for his dream job
Peter Moore bounds into a windowless meeting room, glibly named "That's A Good Idea" on the executive floor at Electronic Arts' HQ in Redwood Shores, California. He drops into a chair and tosses his phone down on the table. It immediately springs to life, flashing up notification after notification in a seemingly relentless stream. "Ugh, I'm going to need to turn that off," he says.
Moore is a rare personality in video games. Alongside Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé and just a small handful of others, the 62-year-old Brit is one of the few purely business-focused "names" that fans both recognize and display genuine affection for. Unlike the majority of gaming's celebrities, he's never made a game or built a piece of technology, but over the past two decades he's been on the front lines helping shepherd the world of video games as they've matured from hobby status to a mainstream cultural force. Since he entered the games business in 1998 he's launched two beloved consoles (the Sega Dreamcast and the Xbox 360), helped turn EA Sports into a gargantuan all-year-round money-making machine, and served as Electronic Arts' chief operating officer.
On February 27, it was announced that Moore would be leaving his current role as the head of Electronic Arts' fledgling esports division to return to the UK this summer to take on his dream job as Liverpool Football Club's new CEO.
This will be a homecoming of sorts for a man for whom soccer is everything. Born in Liverpool in the UK, the eldest of four siblings and the son of a dock worker and a children's hospital nurse, Moore's earliest career dream was to be a PE teacher – something he achieved in the mid-1970s, teaching in Llangollen in north Wales while spending his summers in Cleveland, Ohio coaching and playing with the Cleveland Cobras soccer team. At just 25 he then made the leap to Long Beach, California to start a soccer coaching school with his former college professor – a move that would see him living in a mobile home at the side of the sports field before getting a "proper job" selling soccer shoes for Patrick USA from the trunk of his Toyota Camry. This went so well for him that he eventually worked his way up to become the president of the US arm of the French-owned shoe company. In the early Nineties he left Patrick, and moved to Boston where he oversaw the global sports marketing business at sportswear giant Reebok.
This was what put him on Sega's radar in 1998, just as the Japan-based company was in the process of launching what would turn out to be its last ever video game console, the Dreamcast.
SEGA DREAMCAST: IT'S THINKING
You joined Sega in late 1998. Up until this point, from leaving school until 1998, your whole career was driven by sports, mainly soccer. That had to have been a big shift.
Absolutely. As I was leaving Reebok, it occurred to me that every penny I've earned in my life was somehow linked to soccer.
So, what happened then?
Well, I got a call from a recruiter saying, "What do you know about video games?" And I said, "Who's asking?" "Well," he said, "There's an interesting opportunity at Sega"' and I said, "Well, Sega, it's funny you say that, because the only thing I know about video games is that I bought my son a Sega Saturn for $499, and I go to buy him games, like, a year later, and they're not making games for it anymore." I said It felt like a waste of money. He says, "Well, Sega has got a new console coming out. They're in a little bit of trouble." They've got no head of marketing, and it's back in San Francisco, South of Market, 650 Townsend Street, and they are nine months from launch, they don't have anything. They have no creative, they have no designs, no brand ID, were still even fighting over the name. And the Japanese were panicked. So I go meet with Bernie Stolar [Sega of America's President and COO]. In those days, if you were a shoe marketer you were perfect for video games, because you were talking to teenage boys.
So, obviously you took the job. That was a tumultuous time at Sega though. The Saturn was a disaster, and it seemed like it had really hurt the whole company. What did you do when you first got there?
First of all, I fought hard for calling the new console Sega Dreamcast, not just Dreamcast. I still thought there was great equity in the Sega name, but it was a little bit of a fight, because people were trying to insist on just calling it the Dreamcast. I just said, "No." Japan had already launched, and then Europe had launched with a completely different-colored logo. Japan was already struggling, if you remember. It was an okay launch but nothing to write home about. Then all of a sudden, Bernie leaves Sega, and they said to me, after five months on the job, "You're in charge. You're the new president, chief operating officer, of Sega America," and I'm still, like, waiting for my clothes to arrive from Boston.
So we did E3 in the summer, and then we're rolling into the launch date on 9/9/99, and the VMAs are that night, along with our launch. We were cranking on creating a launch campaign, and the more I started to learn about what the console could do – and of course this was the first online console, albeit through a 56k modem – we came up with this concept of "It's thinking."
The TV commercials with the whispered line at the end.
Yeah. Slightly creepy, but very cool. We realized we could do 15-second spots all over cable TV and really build some intrigue and anticipation. And then we filmed a ridiculously expensive spot in Vancouver with the girl in the leather suit that was stealing the Dreamcast with 747s crashing, and motorbikes and stuff. The idea was that because of the GD-ROM and the little VMU things, which were the memory cards, it would kind of remember you, like consoles do today. The more you played, the more it would figure out. The theory was it would actually try to compete with you.
I remember at the time you saying up front that it would be, "the biggest 24 hours in entertainment history."
Chris Gilbert [Sega's EVP of sales and marketing] and I had gone to see Hollywood Video, because they were a big player back then, in Portland, and we're at the airport, and I was saying to Chris, "we need something to hang onto here that will make people believe, and we need something that we can point at to show that we've had a strong launch." We were at a high top in a bar having a beer, and I said, "what do you think the biggest 24 hours in retail entertainment history has ever been?" and he says, "It's probably a Star Wars movie." I said, "Well, let's find out." So we went and researched it, and lo and behold, we blew through the numbers. We did $99 million in that 24-hour period in North America. Still the greatest launch line-up in console history, by far: SoulCalibur, TrickStyle, Hydro Thunder, Sonic Adventure. You know, I look at launch lineups today and go, 'oh man,' because we had 18 titles that weekend ready to go, all – for the most part – brand new IP.
It ended pretty suddenly though, right?
We had gone to Tokyo twice in January in 2001, and, you know, they were just running out of money, and we just couldn't get the install base going fast enough. The decision in mid-January was, "We've got to pull the plug. We just can't afford to continue manufacturing if we're not selling enough. The PlayStation 2 is coming, and the Emotion Engine, and games that look like Toy Story, and all this stuff." I always remember they used The Bouncer and Kessen. Do you remember those games?
It all looked glorious, and, you know, I love my friends at Sony PlayStation, but I didn't love them then. They did a brilliant job of FUD-ing us, right? Fear, uncertainty, and doubt. So the decision was made, 'We're gonna end this, and we're gonna turn into a third party.' And then somehow it was my job to 'make the call.' That's something I have been, and forever will be, tainted with. 'He made the call to kill the Dreamcast.' No I didn't. But my job was to make the phone call, because the Japanese said, 'we need you to host the conference call.' Yeah. Then we had to let go half of Sega of America that afternoon, and it was just tough. Then my job was to go talk to my new friends at Sony and Nintendo and ask for dev kits. You know, I'd been ripping them to shreds for, like, two, three years, and then it's like, 'Oops, can I have some dev kits for our teams?'
So I said to the translator, 'Tell him to fuck off.' And the poor guy looks at me and says, 'There's no expression in Japanese.' I said, 'I know there is.' And that was it.
What was that like?
Well, yeah, I mean, to be fair, everybody was fine. They all knew. Everybody loves Sega.
You had plenty of famous game brands to to work with though, there had to have been some demand for what you were sitting on?
Well, this is where my next employer comes in, because they got that. Robbie Bach [head of the Xbox business at Microsoft], J Allard, Cam Ferroni, George Peckham, you know, a bunch of people at Microsoft say, 'Hey, we love Crazy Taxi. We love Shenmue. You're using Windows CE as your operating system on the Dreamcast. Wouldn't be that hard to port these games.' And so I started to go up and see Robbie and the team, because they came to our rescue. First phone call, when we made the call, was Microsoft saying, 'Hey, we'd love to help.'
They cared, and they wanted, well they needed content. They wanted something exclusive to grab for the current Xbox, and then they had long-term plans for what turned out to be Xbox 360, which they were calling Xenon.
There's a name we've not heard in a long time.
That's what they were calling it. So, you know, we started to go up there a lot and build a relationship, and I was going back and forth to Japan and I was just so angry with Sega that they didn't see the stormclouds of what was happening in the industry. Games like GTA 3 were changing the vibe of the content. That was, to me, this inflection point. Once the tech started to get more powerful, the creative elements that would come over from Hollywood and from television all of a sudden – that was what gave us Rockstar, and what the Houser brothers, to their credit, did for games. I mean, you look back on the history of this industry, you can point to these moments and say, 'That's when everything started to change.'
We did a focus group here in San Francisco, I'm trying to think what year this would be, probably late 2001, early 2002, because I needed to prove to the Japanese that our brand was starting just to fade away. And so we asked the focus group, a bunch of 18-, 19-year-olds, a classic question, 'If a video game publisher was a relative or a friend, who would they be?' Ah, EA. Arrogant quarterback, 6'5”, walks in, gets the girl, nobody likes him, blah blah blah, but, you know, fills the room with his big personality, all that. I can hear it now. Rockstar. Ah – that's your drunken uncle that shows up from Vegas once a month with a hooker on his arm and looking for money and then he's gone again. He comes in and he's the life of the party for a little while, and then he disappears for a long time. Sega. Yeah, that's your grandad. Used to be cool, but even he can't remember why anymore.
We filmed all of these, right? I packaged this up, and I said, 'This is our our manifesto for the future.' So we make a huge presentation in Japan, and I said, 'We need to be incredibly aware of the challenges we face as a brand at Sega,' you know, and so I play the video. Yuji Naka, Naka-san, maker of Sonic, is in the room. Now, he and I have a love/hate relationship on a good day. And we show him this, and it's subtitled in Japanese, and when it comes to that piece he just [slams his hand on the table], 'This is ridiculous. You have made them say this. Sega is the great brand, nobody would ever say this, you have falsified!' He just gets in my face. So I said to the translator, 'Tell him to fuck off.' And the poor guy looks at me and says, 'There's no expression in Japanese.' I said, 'I know there is.' And that was it. That was the last time I ever set foot in there.
I rarely get upset, but to be accused of doctoring a video, because there's none so blind as those who will not see, right? I loved Sega, still love Sega, but it was dominated by the developers to the extent where Sega as a company couldn't move if Nakagawa-san, Yu Suzuki, Iguchi weren't into it. The world was changing around them, and we were desperate. I said that we've got to get content that is mature. It's ironic to me that one of their best-selling games, subsequent to all of that, is now Yakuza.
So did you quit at that point?
I fly back – it was December 2002. I'm getting off the plane at San Francisco airport – I don't think we had any cellphones in those days – but I get a message from Robbie Bach that said, 'Hey, just wishing you and the family Merry Christmas, and how would you like to come up and chat with Steve Ballmer and I about what's going on?' He just called me at the perfect time. Perfect time. So, very quietly, in January 2003, I fly up to Seattle, to Microsoft's offices in Redmond, Washington, to sit down with Steve, one on one with Steve Ballmer. He said, 'Look, we're worried about Sony, because we think that they are gonna take over the living room, and we can see Sony TVs, we can see Sony PlayStations and we want to make sure that we can go toe to toe with them, because we don't want to lose the living room. Things are moving, for us at Microsoft, out of the office and out of bedrooms with laptops, and we want to be part of the living room experience.' And Steve said, 'We're not a consumer brand at all, and we don't have people that can speak to consumers.' He was very humble, to his credit. 'We've watched you take on Sony, and we need somebody a little different here to be the voice, the face, a marketer to get us out of what we are. We are working on Xenon, and it's gonna be a few years but we've got to get going here.' They couldn't wait to stop manufacturing the big old black Xbox, because it was costing them more money to make them than they were getting for them.
I came back and talked to the family and said, 'Hey, how would you like Seattle?' Then I pulled my troops together at Sega and said, 'I'm done,' and resigned to the Japanese.
LAUNCHING THE XBOX 360
Video games as a business had obviously gotten its teeth into you at that point.
Oh yeah. Well, after two years, like I'd been around forever, right? I'm telling everybody to fuck off.
Confidence clearly wasn't a problem.
We were a challenger brand. I love being a challenger brand, because I think you can get away with a lot more. Robbie, wisely, had got us out of the Borg and had us in a different building. We weren't even on the Microsoft campus, and we liked it. We were the upstart and we hated being dragged to Building 34 for whatever corporate meeting we had to do. But it was J Allard and me and Robbie and Shane Kim and Phil Spencer – little Phil, junior guy somewhere. I'm kidding. But, you know, Kiki Wolfkill, Bonnie Ross, the guys at Bungie, the guys at Rare, Peter Molyneux. I mean, we were a ragtag bunch. It was a fascinating, fascinating two-and-a-half years to launch.
There was a lot of buzz leading up to launch. How much of that was planned that way?
Everybody was trying to guess what it looked like, and the name and everything, so we whipped up about 25 different iterations and then just floated them out there. I said to the team, 'does anybody know what chaff is?' A few people knew. Chaff is what you throw up in the air to attract the missiles, it's like aluminum foil, right? It confuses the missiles. I told the team that we're gonna throw some chaff out on the internet and just mess with everybody. And it was some gorgeous-looking stuff.
So all the leaks were orchestrated?
Totally. Nobody knew then what the hell was right and what was wrong, and we kept the design a complete secret, til Backpack Girl pulls it out [during the "MTV Presents Xbox: Next Generation Revealed" that aired May 12, 2005] which was a little weird. I would like to take that moment back.
Whose decision was that? Was that yours?
Oh yeah, I orchestrated this whole fucking thing. But I'm not sure Backpack Girl was mine. I don't know whose that one was.
Anyway, we launched the 360, and straight away we knew we had a winner. And then when PlayStation 3 launched, yeah. $599, woohoo. We had a jump on them with the launch date, of about four, five months if I recall. Their pricing was out of whack. Kutaragi goes, 'Yeah, you'll work overtime to buy a PlayStation 3,' and people took umbrage at that statement, and we were starting to really move. I said to my team, 'the first to ten million wins.' And I truly believed in that. I said, 'We've got to keep this thing rolling, production coming through, because we've got a lead now. We're cheaper, I think from a power perspective we're on a par.' You know, Sony had tried their usual thing. The latest version of The Bouncer and Kessen was Killzone. Do you remember that? I'm looking at that video and going 'there's no way that it's gonna look like that.' And it never did.
It was all going so well, and then you had the whole red ring of death thing where Xboxes were failing and gamers were pissed.
Thank God for Steve Ballmer, you know, not flinching when I told him, 'I think this is a $1.15 billion problem we've got on our hands.' He just said 'do it.' And, you know, if we hadn't have done that I don't think Xbox would be in existence today. Our product was failing, it was failing the players, and we needed to do something about it. There was a lot of overnight shipping going on there, and a lot boxes being fixed or replaced, but it solved the problem and salvaged the brand. Otherwise we'd have been done.
And so, it's 2007, we're firing on all cylinders, red ring of death had happened but we were getting through the end of that, and I get an email from a recruiter (ironically the same guy that put me in Sega from Reebok) and the subject line was 'time to come home'. So I click on that, open it. It's from the recruiter. And he said, 'Hey, need to talk to you. John Riccitiello – JR – is back at EA. He's building a label system, and he's looking for a president of EA Sports, and when John thinks about that he thinks about you.' So I call the recruiter, and we have a chat, and I say, 'Alright,' and I go back home and talk to the family, and they look at the rain and go, 'Well, yeah, let's do it.'
EA AND "THE WORST COMPANY IN AMERICA"
It was August of 2007, and I was still officially a Microsoft employee but JR had called a really important meeting in New York and wanted me to attend. This is the meeting that has since become known as the "Burning Platform" meeting. That was actually my first ever meeting at EA. It was VP and above, so, you know, 120, 130 people.
That sounds ominous. What was it about?
Everybody flew into New York City and we were all at the W Hotel. It's a meeting that I certainly shall never forget. It's a meeting that I've used both as an analogy and example of forethought and strategic planning. But it was alarming. The first slide was an oil rig in the North Sea, and the second slide was [explosion noise] Deepwater Horizon going up. And the analogy of The Burning Platform is that, you know, you can have something that's on fire, and you can hang out there for a while, but eventually it's gonna burn to the ground, or it's gonna, in this instance, sink into the sea. You can choose to take matters in your own hands, or you can hold your nose and jump. John said, 'We're jumping. We're seeing the future. The future is moving towards digital. The future is moving towards the fact that the gamer is in control. We're not simply pushing out a message. We're gonna engage with our community in a deeper way. And all that's gonna cost money. We're gonna have a tough couple of years as we invest in database management, customer service and community management.' All of the seeds of what EA is today were laid out and planted in that meeting in August of 2007.
That was a moment. And, you know, fortuitously, my first ever interaction at EA. I didn't know anybody there. I mean, hardly. Interestingly, and maybe sadly, the great majority of those people are no longer with EA, because one of the other things that was a message that John delivered is, 'We've got to remix who we are. And you're either on board or you're not. You're either jumping with me or you're not.' And a lot of people, it was determined either through their own devices or we determined as a company, were not ready to jump. And, you know, within 12 months to 18 months a good chunk of those people had moved on.
Was there a game that led the charge on redefining the company? From the outside it looked like it was probably FIFA.
FIFA certainly was important. And then, you know one of the most brilliant things we ever did was Ultimate Team. We were looking for different ways to engage, and looking for ways to have a live service. Football [soccer] for me was always 360 degrees, 365 days a year. There's always something going on in the world of football. Somebody is kicking a ball every day in anger, or for money. But we didn't have that. We had multiplayer, great, but we weren't reflecting the real world of football in ways that I believed we could. And this small group in Vancouver made a presentation and said, 'We have this idea of melding fantasy sports and a live service,' and at first we thought, 'Alright. Well, we're gonna charge for it.' And, you know, that's what we did. We launched it the following March, in 2009.
And then the following year we thought, 'Alright, we've got to get this at launch, but we'll still charge.' But I always thought, 'You know, this is like putting a tollbooth in the parking lot of the shopping mall. You know, this thing works,' and then after that it was just free and, you know, as Blake [Jorgensen], our CFO, just announced at an investor meeting, it's now an $800 million business.
So you were in a good spot, as the guy running EA Sports at the time, right?
Yeah. But then John, JR, had been through a couple of COOs that didn't quite work out. John being John said, 'Well, I'll just take everything direct,' and that was overwhelming, so he and I had dinner one night, I think it was July 2011, and he says, 'I need a COO, and I think you can do it,' and it's one of those moments you go, OK, I think I can too, but I've got to figure out what a COO does.' Turns out my job was to run all of sales, marketing, you know, the classic publishing stuff, worldwide customer service, in-game advertising sales, and then depending on what month it was, Origin.
Soon after that, EA went through some tough times. Presumably this was after many of the changes that came as a result of the Burning Platform meeting were really taking effect. You had the whole "worst company in America" thing two years in a row, which was driven by some missteps with the company trying to build games as services. It seems like the company was struggling, and then eventually John left. What was going on?
John left us in March of 2013. We were starting to see the green shoots of the work that he had done but, you know, it was time for fresh blood. We talked about a remix, even in the CEO office, the board determined, and John, you know, agreed. There was six months here where we didn't have anybody. During that period, as a management team we had to circle the wagons. Just to add to the fun, we were also the worst company in America, quote-unquote, during that period.
We took that seriously. It was like, 'Alright, you know, if this is what they're saying then there's got to be some substance to this.' We built, and I named and I chaired, the rather clunkily and inelegantly named "Reputation Rehabilitation Group." We met at 7:30am every Monday morning and listened. You know, it was like reading out mean tweets on late night television. We just listened to feedback that was coming to us, and sat back, and built a very objective plan of attack of how to knock this down, and by 'knock this down' I don't mean push it away, but to embrace it and then turn this company into what we determined would be a "player-first" company.
We built, and I named and I chaired, the rather clunkily and inelegantly named "Reputation Rehabilitation Group." We met at 7:30am every Monday morning and listened. You know, it was like reading out mean tweets on late night television.
You left the COO spot after a while though. Until just recently, you've been the Chief Competition Officer. So...what does that mean, exactly?
Not last fall, the fall before, we started to really pay attention to esports and start to look at where our position was in that. It was during that period of time where League of Legends, Dota, Counter-Strike: GO were just getting bigger, and then all of a sudden you started to hear brands getting involved. A lot of that was due to the fact that millennials were starting to retreat into their bedrooms. You know, they weren't cord-cutters, I'm fond of saying, they were cord-nevers. They'd never sat on the couch and waited for a particular show to come on. It sounds ridiculous to them, when they've got their favorite YouTuber going or they can be in an online game of League of Legends or they can hopefully be playing a game like FIFA with their mates. And so this phenomenon, coupled with big brands, the Coca Colas of this world, saying, 'Wait a second. Television isn't working for us anymore. We're missing out on this generation coming up. What do we do?' Well, we've all got to go and get ourselves engaged with esports. So we took a really deep dive. Andrew [Wilson] asked me in, we made an announcement shortly thereafter that at the end of the fiscal year I would be transitioning over to the grandiosely named Chief Competition Officer, which I think DT [David Tinson, VP of global communications group at EA], came up with, God bless him.
So we kicked off. Officially I moved over when the fiscal year was closed, and Todd Sitrin, who was head of marketing for EA Sports came with me. Todd and I have worked together since the first day I ever arrived here, and is a tremendous complement to my skill sets as I am to his. And, you know, I'm fond of often saying to Todd – I am everything he is not and he is everything I am not.
So what are you not?
I'm not detail-oriented. Not in the weeds. Not into microanalysis and charts and tri-fold spreadsheets that say, 'these are the 68 things we need to do from getting out of bed to executing correctly.' Todd is. Stanford grad. Total focus, unbelievable work ethic. All the things that I don't have.
He's the senior vice president and general manager of the group, and he's day-to-day operations. He has three commissioners now that roll into him for the three franchises we focus on, which is FIFA, Madden, and Battlefield.
And you two jumped into the esports thing.
We embarked upon it at first, not knowing what we didn't know, and then halfway through, after a tremendous amount of negotiation and collaboration with our friends at FIFA and the NFL, we then figured out what we didn't know. As we exit the year, we now know damn well what we don't know. But more importantly, we know what we need to do. And so it's been a classic three-part play over 12 months. We've gone from zero to running EA Major events, to having $1.3 million in prize money for FIFA, $1 million in Madden, getting global distribution deals with the likes of ESPN, BT Sport, Canal+, streaming deals with Twitch, with Facebook Live, YouTube Gaming, looking at building the core platform of what next year, the year after, and the year after that will be a very important part of what this company does. I couldn't be prouder for the work we've done in such a short period of time.
So, how does it differ from what Riot's doing with League?
Well, we're still babies.
It's a bit more grassroots, right?
Well, what Riot does with League, I think it's brilliant. They have a combination of hands-on, hands-off that I've always enjoyed. The difference that we have right now, which will change over a period of time, is in a world of current esports that's primarily PC free-to-play team-based MOBAs, well, we are in a world of high-def console, you versus me, premium games that are mainly real-sports based. And FPSes coming down the road. So we've had to build our own environments and ecosystems, different than what you see currently.
We have a very clear strategy, we have an incredibly powerful franchise in FIFA, we've just got to mold and shape our competitions and start building stars out of all of our players, which we're starting to do really well. Not just the professional players but I've travelled the world to three or four competitions in the last two to three months, and I'm always delighted to see fresh faces, kids that emerge through online competitions that nobody expected. And that's the fun of traditional sports, and it's certainly the fun of competitive gaming. Also, to be blunt, build a business that allows us to plough money back in. The company is great here at EA, in that there's a lot of seed money going into it, but, you know, for us to continue to build, we need to be ploughing money back into the company for us to be able to build community, build even bigger prize money, build a bigger web of the Major events that travel the world, and I think we're in great shape to do that.
YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE
You've only been building this thing for a year, but now you're leaving to do something completely different. After nearly 20 years in gaming, you're returning to sports, and to Liverpool. How did that whole thing go down?
Not too long after I’d first been at EA, there was some knocking on my door of executive recruiters who were looking for this role then. Long story short, the incumbent who’s just left, whose job I will be assuming, took the role. I told the executive recruiters it was too soon for me. I was only maybe 18 months or two years at EA. As much as I love Liverpool it just didn’t feel like the right time. There was a lot of work to do at EA. I would have felt incredibly disloyal to John Riccitiello.
But I had done enough during that period to catch the attention of Liverpool ownership, current ownership, which is Fenway Sports Group. I’m a little bit of a unicorn in that I'm a Liverpudlian that’s lived in Boston and is a big Red Sox fan and a big Patriots fan. So I have this interesting combination of global business person, Liverpudlian, and, you know...big Liverpool fan. It’s part of my life.
I’ve been fortunate over the past few years, with the run-up of EA stock, well I’ve got a few bob [an old British term for pocket change] that I can, you know, spend on things other than food and mortgage. And so I bought two Liverpool boardroom seats for more than a few bob. I wanted to give back to the club, and I wanted to be part of this next wave. Stupid really, because I live 5,200 miles away.
What’s the commitment in buying two seats? Do you have to show up?
It was a commitment. Well, no, it's a phenomenal experience when you’re there. And as my brothers and their wives and my sister and her husband will tell you, it’s a great experience, because they’re the ones that typically go. And I will have been by the time the season is over. I’m going over for the Everton game. I think that may be my fifth game, and that’s it, and that’s all I’ve been able to do. But it is a first-class experience, and the reason I tell you this story is that it’s allowed me to be part of the club this season and be in the boardroom, and to interact with management and ownership, and interestingly in the last four to five months it’s also given me air cover to be around as we started to talk seriously about being the new CEO.
I started to just chat with them at the back end of last summer and into the fall, and then, you know, things started to intensify as it became very clear, I think to them, and I’ll speak for them, that they have a unique individual with me. Somebody that interacts at the highest level of FIFA, that knows the Premier League well, that works for the company that’s the biggest league partner of the Premier League, that is deeply embedded in the club both professionally and personally, and has historic roots with the club
Anyway, it intensified, and then we came to an agreement, actually before Christmas, and then just locked it down, because I had a job to do here. Bluntly, you know, we had a rather rushed announcement about all this on February 27th, primarily because the British newspapers had got a hold of the news.
They found out it was you?
They had got wind that it was me. And, to be fair to EA, and to be fair to everybody involved in all of this, we hurriedly came up with a joint announcement. In my mind I was another few weeks away from telling Andrew, and I had a very clear plan how I was going to do that. But it was all coming to a head and I had to call him.
How did he take it? Was he like, 'Of course you are, Peter?'
Unfortunately he was driving, and I was in a little bit of a panic because, you know, this thing was breaking. Liverpool were eager to manage it, and I was very eager to manage it here, because I didn’t need it showing up in the newspapers and then be forced to confirm or deny. Not the way I needed it, not the way EA needed it, and certainly not the way Liverpool needed it. So, I called Andrew, which is not what I wanted to do, and said, 'Are you coming in?' He said, 'Yeah, but I'm on the way and I won't be there for a while, and I've got to go into a meeting. What's up?' And I said, 'Well, I need to tell you that I'm leaving EA.' Pause. And he said, 'Oh. What are you gonna do?' I said, 'I'm gonna be the new CEO of Liverpool Football Club. There was another pause, and he started talking, but his voice broke. And he said, 'I am breaking up. My voice is breaking up because I'm so happy for you.' And that's exactly how it went down. He knows what Liverpool means to me. He immediately got it.
What’s the thing from here that you’re gonna put in your office at Liverpool?
You know, that’s a great question, because I’ve got a ton of shit. My Emmy is coming with me, that’s for sure. Because it’s an Emmy and it’s got my name on it.
What was that for?
EA Sports Virtual Playbook that we did with ESPN, and it was brilliant. We used our game engine to create holographic images in the NFL. Spectacular. And I kind of pimped it and pitched it. That was about as much involvement as I had. I may have found room in the budget, but that’s about it. But I got an Emmy with my name on it, and it’s coming with me. I also have a picture of my mum and dad’s tombstone together, which has 'you’ll never walk alone' etched on it. I might do a replica of the tombstone.
I don’t know. Maybe that’s a little creepy.
This interview has been edited and condensed.