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. Founder Mark Pincus will continue as Zynga’s chairman and chief product officer.
The 49-year-old Mattrick, who begins next Monday, will also join the company’s board. 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.
This is a major step by Pincus, who has held the top job there since the company’s founding. While it is not unusual for a founder to give up such power, it certainly underscores Pincus’ commitment to reviving Zynga.
“Don is unique in the game business,” said Pincus in a statement. “He deeply understands the value of a network and the importance of creating lifelong consumer relationships.”
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.