|Mark Pincus is out as CEO of Zynga after less than a year — and a turnaround expert is in|
March 1, 2016
Stephen Lam/ReutersZynga Executive Chairman Mark Pincus
Mark Pincus has stepped down from his role as CEO of publicly-traded social game developer Zynga, less than a year after taking the reins in April 2015. He's staying with the company in a new role of executive chairman.
Now, Pincus is handing the CEO role over to Zynga board member Frank Gibeau, a 25-year gaming industry veteran credited with completely turning around mega-publisher Electronic Arts' mobile gaming business, the company announced after market close on Tuesday.
Under Gibeau, EA turned mobile games like "The Simpsons: Tapped Out" and "Plants vs. Zombies" into lucrative businesses. Now, the hope is that he'll bring some of that magic to Zynga — because, frankly, the once-hot Zynga needs it.
This was actually Pincus' second run as Zynga CEO: He served as CEO from the company's founding in 2007 through 2013, when he stepped down and handed the role over to Microsoft veteran Don Mattrick. In early 2015, Mattrick himself stepped down, and Pincus stepped back up as CEO.
Despite Zynga's grand ambitions with a slate of new games under Pincus, the "Words With Friends" developer has seen its stock get crushed after whiffing on its most recent earnings.
Still, Pincus tells Business Insider that he's proud of his 11-month tenure as CEO: He says that under his watch, Zynga's teams are collaborating in ways that they hadn't, and the overall culture is far more focused on its most lucrative businesses, including its fast-growing slot machine and poker games.
"I put all of that in motion," Pincus says. "I don't need to win CEO of the year to feel good about that."
Flickr cc, Torbakhopper"Words With Friends."
Furthermore, Pincus says that plenty of the games he's spearheaded as CEO won't come out until later this year or beyond, meaning that it's too soon to judge his legacy as a business executive.
Still, Gibeau has a challenge ahead. After going no higher than $3.50 over the last year, Zynga stock cratered to $2.16 ahead of this announcement. Meanwhile, reports swirl that Zynga is planning to sell its iconic San Francisco headquarters, which it purchased in 2012 for $228 million.
Pincus says that Gibeau has been very involved with Zynga's business and plans over the seven months he's held a board seat. Because of that, Pincus doesn't anticipate a lot of bumps during the transition.
"I saw more and more opportunity for [Gibeau] to engage here," Pincus says, culminating in Pincus going to the board and asking for this change, he says.
And while Gibeau handles the day-to-day tasks of the chief executive, Pincus says that he's going to stay involved with Zynga, focusing on bigger-picture vision stuff, what he calls "product entrepreneurship," and helping teams within the company talk to each other.
"I think it's important that founders and CEOs are self aware of where they can add value or not," Pincus says.