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ZeniMax Media Inc. is an American developer, marketer, publisher, and distributor of computer and video games. It is based in Rockville, Maryland.

ZeniMax is best known as the owner of Bethesda Softworks, the publisher of The Elder Scrolls game series, as well as the Fallout series starting with Fallout 3, focused mainly on role-playing games. It also owns other game development studios, including Bethesda Game Studios and id Software. Bethesda Softworks also publishes games developed by third party developers.

ZeniMax and its studios, including Bethesda Game Studios, are a subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios, following an acquisition by Microsoft in 2021.[1] The company was previously owned by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners and German Mass media company ProSiebenSat.1 Media.[2][3]

ZeniMax was acquired by Microsoft for $7.5 billion in 2021.[1] Previously, ZeniMax was valued at $1.2 billion in 2007.[4] As of 2020, ZeniMax employs more than 2000 people.[5]

Background and origin of the name

ZeniMax was founded in 1999 by Bethesda Softworks founder Christopher Weaver and Robert A. Altman. Weaver's vision was to use Bethesda Softworks as the basis to create a hybrid media company to create cross-media properties such as PC and console games; interactive TV; mobile; web and new media. Weaver invited Altman to help him run the new company, but potential investors were wary of Altman because of his previous involvement in the BCCI scandal as well as making new investments in the field. As part of the deal, Weaver, sole owner of Bethesda Softworks, contributed his stock so that the new shell company (Zenimax) would be able to obtain funding. Robert Altman installed himself as CEO and convinced Weaver to take the position of CTO — a move that ultimately resulted in Weaver being forced out by Altman in 2002. Although still the largest shareholder, Weaver no longer has any day-to-day responsibilities with Zenimax. Altman continued to serve as CEO until his death in 2021.

ZeniMax is a combination of two words, "zenith" and "maximum," zenith being defined as the highest point reached in the heavens, and maximum as the greatest quantity or value attainable. Those together incapsulated the hope for the company's future and its impact within the industry.[6]

Under ZeniMax, Bethesda developed and published The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Bethesda is also the publisher of three new Star Trek games, Star Trek: Legacy (For PC/Xbox 360), Star Trek: Tactical Assault (for Nintendo DS/PlayStation Portable), and Star Trek: Encounters (PlayStation 2).

In 2004, ZeniMax acquired the Fallout franchise from Interplay Entertainment. Bethesda's Todd Howard said in January 2007 that "We started work on Fallout 3 in late 2004 with a few people. We only had about 10 people on it until Oblivion wrapped, but most of our staff is on it now." Fallout 3 was released in October 2008.

On June 24, 2009, it was announced that ZeniMax had purchased independent developer id Software.[7]

Robert Walsh, then technical director of enterprise business intelligence at ZeniMax, stated in 2017 that ZeniMax was "the third largest game company in America."[8]

On September 21, 2020, it was announced that Microsoft had entered into an agreement with the group, seeking to acquire the company.[9] The acquisition was finalized following EU approval on March 9, 2021.[10][11] The deal promised to return more than six times Providence Equity's investment in the company.[12]

Corporate governance

ZeniMax's Board of Directors existed from its founding until the Microsoft purchase in 2021.[13] It consisted of the following individuals:

From 1999-2021:

  • Ernie Del (Senior Advisor)
  • Leslie Moonves (Private Investor)
  • Harry E. Sloan (Chairman, Silver Eagle Acquisition Corp; Former Chairman and CEO of Metro-MGM (2005-2009) and SBS Broadcasting (1990-2001)

From 2007-2021:

  • Jerry Bruckheimer (Jerry Bruckheimer Films)
  • Michael Dominguez (Managing Director, Providence Equity Partners Inc.)
  • Cal Ripken, Jr (President & CEO, Ripken Baseball, Inc.)

Other Previous Board Members

  • Robert A. Altman, co-founder, chairman, and CEO; served from the company's creation in 1999 until his death in 2021
  • Todd Hollenshead, former President of id Software according to a 2009 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filling by ZeniMax[14]
  • Mark Schneider, former Chairman and CEO of United Pan-Europe Communications, Inc
  • Christopher Weaver, Bethesda Softworks founder[15]
  • Robert S. Trump (President, Trump Management, Inc.)[16][17], part of the board until his death in August 2020.

Outside advisors

ZeniMax's Business Advisory Board has included the following individuals over time. The names of ZeniMax's advisors were listed on ZeniMax's website from 2000 until 2009. In late 2009, the names were removed from ZeniMax's website.

Listed from 2000 to 2009:

  • John A. Merrigan (Partner of DLA Piper US LLP. Former Democratic Business Council Chairman from 1996 to 2000)[18]
  • Jon Feltheimer (CEO of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.)
  • Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia (2014-2018), former Democratic National Committee Chairman from 2001 to 2005
  • George J. Mitchell (Chairman Emeritus at DLA Piper, former Chairman of DLA Piper (2007-2012) and The Walt Disney Company (2004-2007), former Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995.
  • Miguel Sanchez-Nevarro Redo (CEO and Chairman of Editorial Mexico Desconocido)
  • Paul J. Wilmot (Chairman and CEO of Paul Wilmot Communications)

Listed from 2001 to 2009:

  • Tony Coelho (Former United States House of Representatives Majority Whip from 1989 to 1990)

Listed from 2000 to 2004:

  • Dean Devlin, Co-Founder of Centropolis Entertainment[19]
  • Mark Bilfield, former Director of Integrated Marketing, at Saatchi & Saatchi[20][21]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Warren, Tom (March 9, 2021). Microsoft completes Bethesda acquisition, promises some Xbox and PC exclusives. The Verge. Retrieved on April 7, 2021.
  2. RR Donnelley Private Equity. Docstoc.com. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved on October 18, 2012.
  3. ZeniMax Media Buys DOOM Maker | peHUBpeHUB. Pehub.com (June 25, 2009). Retrieved on January 23, 2013.
  4. ProSiebenSat.1 hold talks with US game producer ZeniMax. Telecompaper (November 2, 2007). Retrieved on January 23, 2013.
  5. "I don't know what the exact number is. It's somewhere over 2000 now, I think (March 7, 2020). Retrieved on March 9, 2020.
  6. Customer support reply on the company's name
  7. ZeniMax Media Acquires id Software. prnewswire.com (June 24, 2009). Retrieved on December 4, 2016.
  8. theCube (2017). Retrieved on January 31, 2021.
  9. Welcoming Bethesda to the Xbox family. https://news.xbox.com+(September 21, 2020). Retrieved on September 21, 2020.
  10. Kim, Matt T.M. (March 10, 2021). Microsoft's ZeniMax Acquisition Officially Complete, Bethesda Now a Part of Xbox. IGN. Retrieved on April 7, 2021.
  11. Why Microsoft is the perfect fit. https://bethesda.net+(September 21, 2020). Retrieved on September 21, 2020.
  12. Kreutzer, Laura (September 21, 2020). Providence Equity's Sale of ZeniMax Will Bring Lucrative End to 13-Year Deal. Retrieved on September 28, 2021.
  13. Makuch, Eddie (March 17, 2021). ZeniMax Board Of Directors Dissolved After Xbox's Bethesda Purchase. GameSpot. Retrieved on April 7, 2021.
  14. Sec Form D. Sec.gov. Retrieved on January 23, 2013.
  15. Zenimax Media Inc. | profile - board of directors. Web.archive.org (September 29, 2000). Archived from the original on September 29, 2000. Retrieved on January 23, 2013.
  16. Jonson, Richard. "Donald Trump's brother Robert emerges", January 17, 2016. Retrieved on June 8, 2016. 
  17. Welsh, Oli. "Owning the Territory", January 20, 2009. Retrieved on July 16, 2016. 
  18. John A. Merrigan. dlapiper.com. Retrieved on July 20, 2016.
  19. Zenimax Media Inc. | profile - business advisory board. Web.archive.org (September 23, 2001). Archived from the original on February 11, 2001. Retrieved on January 23, 2013.
  20. http://web.archive.org/web/20010712002423/http://www.zenimax.com/profile9.html - His initial and surname are in the image name when you right click and click "view image", or view the page source. The image name is "n_mbilfield.gif"
  21. Mark Bilfield Linkedin Profile. Linkedin.com. Retrieved on July 20, 2016.
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