The Game Manufacturers Association board of directors is moving forward with plans to hire a new Executive Director, according to a statement released by the organization today from Board Member Emeritus Rick Loomis.  Loomis said that the organization had reviewed applications from 90 candidates for the new position, and interviewed the top three today.  “It is my considered opinion that any of the three fine candidates can do a great job for our organization,” Looms wrote, “but only if we all get together and support them.”

The move is apparently the outcome of a three-pronged process the board began in October, to re-evaluate, through a survey, its decision not to renew the contract of Executive Director John Ward; to evaluate the possibility of extending Ward’s contract for a shorter period than the long-term extension previously contemplated; and to evaluate candidates to replace Ward  (see “GAMA Board Takes Poll, Negotiates with Ward, Interviews Successors”).

We reached out to Ward and asked about negotiations to extend his contract.  “We’re currently discussing a mutually beneficial agreement that includes me consulting through the term of both shows to make sure that things go well,” he said, describing his attitude as “optimistic.”

Loomis referred to the process in his statement. “We have a committee negotiating with John for a friendly changeover,” he wrote. “John says he has nothing but good wishes for GAMA, and I (for one) have nothing but good wishes for John. I sincerely hope we can keep him on as the Academy Chair for the Origins Awards.”

If there was any re-evaluation of the decision not to renew Ward’s contract, it reached the same conclusion after confirming it was overwhelmingly unpopular.  The process included a survey of all GAMA members, voting and non-voting (see “GAMA Member Survey Confirms Board’s Executive Director Decision Unpopular”), in which 72% of the respondents expressing an opinion supported retaining Ward (an earlier member vote at a meeting in September produced a 65% majority vote of confidence in Ward, see “GAMA Executive Director Ward Gets Vote of Confidence”).

Nonetheless, through Loomis, the board is telling GAMA members it’s time to move on.  Noting that he opposed the decision to hire a new Executive Director (although as an emeritus member, he did not vote on it), Loomis acknowledged the wide opposition to the move.  “Recently the board voted not to renew John Ward's contract, and that turned out to be an unpopular decision,” he wrote. “I was unhappy with it. I like John, and he brought us out of a deep hole financially, and put us on a solid footing. But the Board determined that it was time for a change, for someone with different skills…. I didn't like the result of the vote, but if we keep arguing about it, it can do nothing but damage our organization and our businesses. It is time to move on.”

The choice of founding GAMA member Loomis, its first president and a member of the board in one capacity or another throughout its history, to deliver the message was a canny political move, one of the first we’ve seen from this board.  It removes controversial President Stephan Brissaud, who recently survived an attempt to remove him from his position after an incident at this year’s Gen Con (see “GAMA Board of Directors Censures Organization President”), from the spotlight and substitutes instead a long-time GAMA figure who members trust, even if they don’t always agree. 

We continue to urge, in the interest of transparency, that the board disclose the votes of each director on all key votes, so that members have the information they need on which to make decisions when voting for board members at Origins Game Fair in June.