NEW YORK (Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, the video game publisher best known for "Grand Theft Auto," said Chief Executive Ben Feder will step down and be replaced by Strauss Zelnick, the company's executive chairman.
Shares jumped more than 5 percent after the announcement, an increase that one analyst attributed to speculation that the management change could set the stage for an acquisition of Take-Two. Take-Two's shares closed up 4.7 percent, or 48 cents, at $10.67 on Nasdaq.
"One could speculate this is an early signal that the company is getting closer to ultimately being taken out," said Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia.
Activist investor Carl Icahn has taken a nearly 14 percent stake in the game publisher. In 2008, Electronic Arts attempted a hostile takeover of the company.
Take-Two Interactive declined to comment on the rumors. "It's our policy not to comment on rumors, speculation, analyst reports or stock movements," spokesman Alan Lewis said.
Other analysts dismissed the rumors and called them unfounded.
"People are incorrectly inferring that for some reason this puts the company in play as a potential acquisition target," said Todd Mitchell, a Kaufman Bros analyst.
Take-Two also said that Karl Slatoff, an executive vice president since 2008, will become chief operating officer, a newly created role. Slatoff is a partner at Zelnick Media, the private equity firm that manages Take-Two.
"Karl's background is in strategic planning for Zelnick Media so I'm wondering if Take-Two is trying to keep the (acquisition) option open," Bhatia said.
Feder, 46, had been CEO for almost four years and will work until January 1, 2011, the company said on Friday. He will be spending an extended period of time traveling in Asia with his family, the company said. Zelnick is 53.
Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Carol Bishopric