In public, CEO Mark Pincus has been ebullient about Zynga’s long-term potential, despite its plummeting stock price and steady exodus of talent.But in private meetings, the social games maker’s leader has been downcast—”near tears,” reports the Wall Street Journal, with employees berating him about the company’s lack of a strategic vision and poorly thought-out schemes to boost morale.
To help Pincus, Zynga investor Kleiner Perkins sent in Intuit chairman Bill Campbell, a well-known coach to Silicon Valley executives like Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt and a member of Apples’ board of directors. The firm’s partners weren’t sure he’d take Campbell’s advice, the Journal reports:
Mr. Campbell, a technology veteran who has coached Silicon Valley CEOs such as Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, had been called in by Zynga investor and venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to advise Mr. Pincus as the social games company’s stock plunged and some of its online games lost traction. Some Kleiner Perkins partners warned Mr. Campbell that he might not make much progress.
But at the meeting, where the two men discussed Zynga’s management challenges, Mr. Pincus was open to advice. Mr. Pincus “was discouraged,” said Mr. Campbell, adding that the CEO was near tears. He “felt terrible about what was happening; he felt the turmoil.”
At an offsite meeting, Jonathan Liu, a director of product at Zynga, said he was “almost yelling” at Pincus over the company’s lack of an articulated strategy.
A plan to hand out stock options flopped, with some employees asking to refuse the grants because they felt they were insultingly small.
Recently, Pincus has shaken up the company’s management, in part to make up for executive departures and in part to reorganize the company to tackle missed opportunities in mobile gaming. COO John Schappert left in August. And this week, CFO Dave Wehner left for a finance position at Facebook, and David Ko, formerly Zynga’s chief mobile officer, was promoted to chief operations officer.
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