John Doerr Is Coming To Zynga's Rescue

John DoerrJohn Doerr, Kleiner Perkins

Zynga, the online games maker, is appointing superstar venture capitalist John Doerr to its board of directors today.

Doerr’s firm, Kleiner Perkins, owns about 10 per cent of Zynga, having backed it in its earliest days. It already has one partner, Bing Gordon, on Zynga’s board. (He remains there, meaning Kleiner now has two seats.)

Despite Zynga’s stock crash since its 2011 IPO, Kleiner has made a mint on the company, roughly quadrupling its $65 million investment. It did not cash in at the company’s IPO, instead betting that Zynga would pay off over the long term.

That remains to be seen.

Doerr has been surprisingly active with Zynga, even without a board seat. We spotted him at Zynga Unleashed, a launch event for new games, last summer, powwowing with Gordon. And Kleiner had Intuit chairman Bill Campbell, a mentor to many tech executives, advise Zynga CEO Mark Pincus last fall, as the company dealt with crisis after crisis.

The move is also a significant one for Doerr, who recently joined the board of another Internet company in its portfolio, Flipboard. 

Kleiner Perkins has struggled with bad bets on cleantech companies and late-stage Internet investments in companies like Facebook and Groupon. By getting more involved in Flipboard and Zynga, Doerr is sending Kleiner’s investors a signal that he’s getting back to basics—hands-on investment in digital companies that Kleiner backed at an early stage.

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