The following is personal opinion and speculation only.  But my first reaction to the departure of Philip Rosedale (a.k.a. Philip Linden) from the CEO role at Linden Lab was “ah, suddenly all the rest starts to make sense.”  It explains the abrupt Philip 2.0 contest termination after 2 months of silence, it ties in with the Linden departures of Marty (legal) and Catherine (marketing), the closures of the international offices, the (at least perceived) tanking of their corporate value, one has to wonder exactly is going on at Linden Lab.

It’s true that Philip Rosedale’s return was always billed as an interim position, but it seems it was always promoted as part of the plan to guide the long-term development strategies, and internal and external culture, back “on track”.  To restore the original vision, in a new way updated for the changing times.  In the hundred or so days while Philip Linden 2.0 was CEO (the second time), it seems the most notable change is his avatar.

Of course, behind the scenes he worked with Bob Komin (CFO) to guide him in his new role as COO, but after the 3+ months of Philip 2.0, we now have a new acting CEO as well.  Actually not a new CEO, the same Bob Komin in the new role of CEO.  Along with COO and CFO.  There are 23 more middle letters for Bob to add so there’s lots of room for growth there.

What concerns me about this is that Philip is leaving before a new CEO has been selected.  And, adding CEO to the burden carried by Bob Komin.  Almost as if there is a rush to get out… now.  There is also the possibility that he simply cares more about, or feels there is a more urgent need at, his position at Love Machine.

I’ve been a professional software developer since 1984.  The companies I have worked for have been swallowed up when least expected, slid into a grave when least expected, gutted the entire executive management when least expected, announced layoffs when least expected, etc.  I’ve seen just about everything in those 26+ years.

This smells.  There is big news coming.  I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s coming.  My spidey sense has been tingling for some time now, and every week it seems more fuel is added to that fire.

There are theories that the CFO is now in charge because of a pending acquisition of Linden Lab and Second Life by a bigger fish.  That’s possible, but the departure of both Philip (Mr. Vested Interest) and Marty (Mr. Mergers and Acquisitions) tells me this is unlikely.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and claim that:

  • I think this confirms that the acquisition speculation is off-base, or whatever interest there was in acquiring LL has now died.

Instead, I feel that what we have here is a product entering “maintenance mode”.  This is further promoted by the departure of Catherine Smith, Marketing Director, not to mention the closure of the international offices, and the 33% (and growing) layoffs.  My history tells me that the major R&D investment is now over.  Totally over.  Instead, now begins the process of maintaining the product, just enough to try to preserve the existing customer base.  To milk the product for as long as it can draw revenue.  They don’t need expensive legal counsel now: exit Marty.  They don’t need a go-get-em Marketing Director: exit Catherine.  They don’t need a wealthy innovative thinker who could do anything, including sit around at home or go camping, but loves to start those new projects “for fun”: exit Philip 2.0.

Heck, they don’t need many of the forward-thinkers and innovators: exit Pathfinder, Babbage, even Qarl.  They just don’t need people like Cyn and Pink and Alexa and Soft Linden, and so many others in The New Virtual World Order.

What they need is someone who can guide the financial numbers and continue to provide some form of ROI for investors, and to maximize what remains.  They need a CFO, in charge of the boring day-to-day, from a financial perspective.  Oh look, first Bob Komin is made COO… and now BK is acting CEO.  Thus begins the milking.  But I doubt that is where BK wants to be.  So stay tuned for more news to come.

The flaw in this theory is that strangely Mark Kingdon (a.k.a. M. Linden) may still belong there, if this article is accurate.  However, my theory is that maybe they didn’t know that in June.  I get the distinct impression that something changed; that Linden Lab received some bad news that changed their plans.  Perhaps the “plan” for Farmville 3D turned sour and Philip and the others have had enough.  Perhaps the planned purchase by Microsoft fell through, when the offer came in too low and didn’t climb.  Or perhaps it was AOL who they expected to draw attention from and did not.

Supposedly they are looking for another new CEO, and I believe that is accurate.  I assume Bob is capable, but they would probably be better off bringing in a corporate “wind-down” specialist.  A software farmer who knows how to milk the cow, while reducing feed costs.  And I suspect that Bob is better suited growing a new startup, rather than slowing and milking a former software leader.  There’s a lot of speculation in this article, but I fully believe that neither Philip or Bob want to preside over the demise of Second Life.

So I predict two more things:

  • a new CEO will be announced, who will have a mostly financial (or perhaps legal) background, possibly even with experience in the leading the demise of corporations, and
  • Bob Komin will leave Linden Lab, and move on to a new-ish smaller company with significant growth potential.

In other words, Bob is at the wrong end of the corporate cycle, so he won’t be in that position once they find someone interested in taking the reins.

Also, the rats are fleeing the sinking ship.  The executive management list is getting shorter and shorter.  There will be more bailing.

Now here’s the latest news on the search for a new CEO (in German, but great… be sure to stick around for the end of the video!):