Microsoft Xbox head named Zynga CEO

Mon Jul 1, 2013 5:50pm EDT
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By Gerry Shih and Malathi Nayak

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Games publisher Zynga Inc has replaced chief executive Mark Pincus with Don Mattrick, the Microsoft Corp executive who headed the critical Xbox business, Zynga announced on Monday.

The news, reported first by AllThingsD, sent Zynga shares up more than 11 percent earlier in the day. The shares rose a further 3 percent to $3.17 when Zynga confirmed the appointment after the bell.

Pincus, 47, who controls a 61 percent voting stake in the gaming company he founded in 2007, will remain as the company's chairman and chief product officer after personally helping to recruit Mattrick from Microsoft.

"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.'"

Zynga's business model, which relied heavily on selling virtual goods to gamers on Facebook Inc's platform, began to disintegrate a year ago as users tired of Facebook games and shifted to playing on mobile devices.

The company's shares have hovered at just 25 percent of its $10 initial offering price in December 2011 as Pincus has struggled to turn around the company named after his pet bulldog.

Mattrick's new role leading a game maker that publishes social media-based titles and smartphone games will be a marked departure from the world of big-budget, packaged console games embodied by the Xbox and Electronic Arts Inc, the game publishing firm where he had worked for 15 years.

In a statement, Mattrick emphasized that Pincus willingly recruited him and described their working relationship as that of "partners."   Continued...

Don Mattrick, President of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, speaks during the Xbox E3 Media Briefing at USC's Galen Center in Los Angeles, California June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni