Magic Leap Founder Rony Abovitz Resigns as CEO of Struggling AR Company

Rony Abovitz is stepping down as CEO of Magic Leap, nine years after he founded the augmented-reality company — which has raised around $3 billion but has found little commercial success.

His exit comes after Magic Leap decided to shift its focus to AR applications for businesses, sidelining plans for consumer-oriented hardware. Last month, Abovitz said the company would lay off “a number of employees” — reported to be 1,000 staffers, or half the workforce. Magic Leap’s owners also were said to be looking at strategic options including a potential sale, Bloomberg reported in March.

Subsequently, Magic Leap “closed significant new funding,” per Abovitz’s May 28 post. That round came in at $350 million and, as a result, Magic Leap is not laying off as many employees as previously expected.

Now Abovitz is out, as Magic Leap’s investors have decided the company needs a new CEO at the helm.

“As the board and I planned the changes we made and what Magic Leap needs for this next focused phase, it became clear to us that a change in my role was a natural next step,” Abovitz wrote in a blog post late Thursday. “I discussed this with the board and we have agreed that now is the time to bring in a new CEO who can help us to commercialize our focused plan for spatial computing in enterprise.”

Magic Leap’s investors include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, AT&T, Alphabet, NTT DoCoMo, Alibaba Group, Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Andreessen Horowitz. Magic Leap previously inked deals with AT&T and DoCoMo to be the exclusive wireless distributors of its products in the U.S. and Japan, respectively.

According to Abovitz, Magic Leap has been actively recruiting candidates for the CEO role. He said he’s in “discussions with the board with regards to how I will continue to provide strategy and vision from a board level.”

Prior to starting Plantation, Fla.-based Magic Leap in 2001, Abovitz was co-founder and head of development and technology for MAKO Surgical, a developer of human-interactive robotics for orthopedic surgery that was acquired by Stryker for $1.65 billion in 2013.

In his resignation post, Abovitz said he remains “super excited” about Magic Leap’s prospects and boasted that “we have defined the future of computing.”

In 2018, Magic Leap launched the Magic Leap One, a wearable device designed for developers — priced starting at $2,295. The “mixed reality” system lets users see and interact with virtual objects and content, superimposed over their real-world view. The Magic Leap One includes a headset (Lightwear), a processor unit (Lightpack), and a controller, all powered by Lumin OS, which the company calls the world’s first “spatial operating system.”

Magic Leap’s content partners have included Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop, HBO, CNN, Epic Games, Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB, The New York Times, Unity, and studios Wingnut AR and Funomena.