Robert A. Altman, the co-founder and chief executive of ZeniMax Media, has died, the company announced on Thursday. As the parent of Bethesda Softworks and several other development studios, Altman’s company grew into a major video gaming publisher in the 21 years since its founding, responsible for multimillion-dollar franchises such as Doom, The Elder Scrolls, and Fallout.
A cause of death was not given in Bethesda’s announcement on social media. The company said Altman was very well liked by his employees and colleagues. “He was a true visionary, friend, and believer in the spirit of people and the power of what they could accomplish together. He was an extraordinary leader, and an even better human being,” Bethesda said.
We are deeply saddened to tell you of the passing of Robert A. Altman, our Founder and CEO. He was a true visionary, friend, and believer in the spirit of people and the power of what they could accomplish together. He was an extraordinary leader, and an even better human being. pic.twitter.com/FZFsVtHc5t
— Bethesda (@bethesda) February 4, 2021
Ben Jones, the creative director of ZeniMax Online (makers of The Elder Scrolls Online), called Altman’s passing a sudden loss. A Bethesda Softworks representative would not confirm Altman’s cause of death or other details.
I’m am stunned by this profound loss. Robert was a shining example of how to lead one’s life: Driven by passion, filled with ambition, conscious of & caring for those around you. He determined to rise all boats in swelling tides / shelter them in unsteady waters. Forever a legend https://t.co/nsadokqEnu
— Ben Jones (@Bagelbeard) February 4, 2021
Altman, 73, is survived by his wife, Lynda Carter, best known for her television portrayal of Wonder Woman in the late 1970s. The two married in 1984. Carter also cameoed with voice roles in five Elder Scrolls games (most notably as the deity Azura) and in Fallout 4.
Altman founded ZeniMax Media (a portmanteau of the words “Zenith” and “Maximum”) with Bethesda Softworks’ founder Christopher Weaver, as the successor to Bethesda’s then-parent company. With investment from Altman and the backing of several high-profile board members, Bethesda acquired the Fallout franchise from original publisher Interplay in 2004; id Software and its Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake franchises, in 2009; and developers Arkane Studios and MachineGames in 2010, putting them to work on the Prey and Wolfenstein series.
Altman’s connections — as a lawyer, he had been the partner of Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense in the Johnson administration — drew several celebrities to invest in ZeniMax and serve on its board of directors. Among them were Les Moonves, the former chief executive of CBS; Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee; Jerry Bruckheimer, the Hollywood director; Cal Ripken, Jr., the baseball hall-of-famer; and Robert Trump, younger brother of Donald J. Trump.
In October, ZeniMax’s directors sold the company to Microsoft for $7.5 billion. On Thursday, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, and Xbox leader Phil Spencer, both extended their condolences to Altman’s family and Bethesda.
A sad moment for the games industry. Robert Altman built ZeniMax into what it is today. My heart goes out to his family, loved ones, and colleagues. https://t.co/uOgSqKsGWH
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) February 4, 2021
Electronic Arts and its chief executive, Andrew Wilson, also sent their sympathies to Altman’s family and Bethesda colleagues.