Pincus makes power play with Zynga IPO

Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:40am EST
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By Liana B. Baker and Alistair Barr

(Reuters) - For years, a group of about 20 guys would gather in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the neighboring Presidio Park for weekend games of soccer. Among them was a man whose 5-foot 6-inch stature belied his ruthless competitiveness and who was usually accompanied by his American bulldog, Zinga.

That man was Mark Pincus, the chief executive of online games developer Zynga Inc, which aims to list shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange this week in an initial public offering that would value the company at around $9 billion.

Investors eyeing Zynga would be wise to understand its CEO, who will retain firm control over the company even after it goes public: a special class of shares help to give Pincus 37 percent of voting power, even as his equity stake falls to 12 percent.

Friends, business associates and soccer buddies describe Pincus as a serial entrepreneur who does not like to be told what to do by his venture capital backers. He is a control freak to his critics, but is praised for his ability to spot new trends and unrelenting drive to expand Zynga, his best chance at joining Silicon Valley's elite.

At work, like on the soccer field, Pincus is full of energy, takes every game very seriously and never gives up, they say.

"He is definitely competitive. He is playing to win for sure," said Chris Law, who founded one of the earliest online social networks,, with Pincus. "It was almost a little frustrating because he kept coming up with new ideas of things we should be doing and we're like, 'we can't keep up with you.'"

Zynga makes free games such as "FarmVille" and "Mafia Wars," which are among the most popular on Facebook. It makes money by selling virtual houses, poker chips and other items for use in the games.

At around $925 million, Zynga's IPO would be the largest from a U.S. Internet company since Google Inc raised $1.7 billion in 2004.   Continued...