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Zynga is replacing founding CEO Mark Pincus with Microsoft’s Don Mattrick, who oversees the software maker’s division that houses its Xbox game system, the company announced Monday. Mattrick becomes CEO July 8 while Pincus will remain chairman of the board of directors and chief product officer.
Speculation that the change was coming — courtesy of a report from Kara Swisher at AllThingsD.com — had shares of Zynga soaring. While the official announcement came after the closing bell, the stock closed more than 10 percent higher to $3.07. Shares of Zynga reached a high of $14.50 about 16 months ago.
Zynga has been slashing costs and jobs lately to counter lackluster financials and a dismal stock price — down more than 75 percent in less than 18 months — so investors haven’t been thrilled with Pincus as of late.
Mattrick, on the other hand, is seen as a turnaround expert and a guru in the console gaming space, though Zynga’s specialty is mobile, social games like Words With Friends. Investors are obviously bullish at the thought of Mattrick taking the reins from Pincus, who co-founded Zynga in 2007 and took it public in December 2011.
“Don is unique in the game business,” Pincus said in a statement. “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. He deeply understands the value of a network and the importance of creating lifelong consumer relationships. He turned Xbox into the world’s largest console-gaming network.”
Mattrick added, “In its short history, Zynga has redefined entertainment and brought social gaming to the mainstream. More than 1 billion people across web and mobile have installed Zynga games, and franchises like FarmVille and Words With Friends have become a part of people’s daily lives. I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark’s pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started.”
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