Zynga CEO Replaced By Xbox Chief
July 2, 2013

Zynga Founder Mark Pincus To Step Down As CEO, Handing Reins To Xbox Exec Don Mattrick

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Zynga founder Mark Pincus announced on Monday he is stepping down as the company's chief executive, and would turn over the reins to Don Mattrick, who currently runs Microsoft's Xbox division.

In a note sent to Zynga employees, players and shareholders, Pincus said he would remain chairman and chief product officer of the company, and that he and Mattrick will jointly report to the board and establish a new executive committee to oversee the company's operations.

"As I reflect on the past six years, I realize that I've had the greatest impact working as an entrepreneur with product teams, developing games that could entertain and connect millions," Pincus wrote in the memo.

"I've always said to Bing and our Board that if I could find someone who could do a better job as our CEO I'd do all I could to recruit and bring that person in. I'm confident that Don is that leader."

Mattrick was unanimously approved by the board as chief executive last week, and will officially start at Zynga on July 8.

"Don is unique in the game business. He can execute in multiple domains - hardware, software and network, and he's been the person responsible for game franchises like "Need for Speed," "FIFA" and "The Sims." He's one of the top executives in the overall entertainment business and he's a great coach who has inspired people to do their best work and build strong, productive teams," Pincus said.

The changes highlight how difficult it has been for Pincus to turn around the troubled video game company, which has been caught somewhat unprepared by the rapid adoption of mobile devices and the exodus of some of its most valued employees.

The company went public in November 2011 amid high expectations, but has struggled as more users shift from games on desktop websites, such as Facebook, towards titles played on smartphones and tablets.

In April, Zynga announced its sales had fallen 18 percent during the first quarter. At the time, Pincus lowered his salary to $1 and opted not to receive a cash bonus or equity award this year. Last month, the company announced plans to layoff some 18 percent of its workforce.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer issued a note to employees on Monday informing them of Mattrick's move.

"This is a great opportunity for Don, and I wish him success," Ballmer said.

The software giant has not yet named a replacement for Mattrick.

Shares of Zynga's stock were up 11 percent on Monday in anticipation of the Mattrick announcement.