BUSINESS

Zynga taps ex-EA Mobile exec as new CEO, Pincus switches to executive chairman

TAGs: frank gibeau, Mark Pincus, social gaming, Zynga

zynga-frank-gibeau-ceoSocial gaming developers Zynga have changed the name on their CEO’s office for the second time in less than a year.

On Tuesday, Zynga announced that CEO/founder Mark Pincus would be relinquishing the chief exec’s role in favor of Frank Gibeau (pictured), who joined Zynga’s board last August following a two-decade run with video game outfit Electronic Arts. Zynga’s shares closed out Tuesday’s trading up 2.4% to $2.16 after rising nearly 6% on the news.

Gibeau will assume Zynga’s reins on Monday. Pincus, who is staying on as executive chairman, told Re/code that the pair intends to work as a “partnership” to steer Zynga’s future. Gibeau said his remit was to “frame strategy, increase operational excellence and collaborate with Mark.”

The executive switcheroo comes less than one year after Pincus replaced Don Mattrick as CEO. Mattrick, another former EA man who joined Zynga in 2013, was brought in to help stabilize Zynga, which had undergone sharp declines in both player numbers and its share price following the company’s late-2011 initial public offering.

Under Pincus, Zynga’s share price stabilized – or at least slowed its freefall – thanks in part to a significant reduction in its workforce and the closure of non-profitable game studios. But Zynga’s player ranks have continued to fall, a problem only partially offset by increased monetization of the remaining players.

Gibeau’s final role at Electronic Arts was executive VP of EA Mobile. For years, the knock on Zynga was its failure to adapt to changing preferences for mobile over desktop platforms for game play. Zynga has somewhat remedied this failure, with 73% of its Q4 2015 bookings coming via mobile, up from 60% the previous year.

While Zynga still has significant cash holdings, it’s in line for a short-term cash boost, having recently put its San Francisco headquarters up for sale. Plans are still tentative, but the company says it plans to lease the property – which Zynga acquired for $228m back when its payroll was still massive – back from the buyer so that it doesn’t have to up sticks and move.

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