Zynga CEO Don Mattrick Wanted To Buy The Company While At Microsoft

Posted Jul 8, 2013

Earlier this month, it was announced that Don Mattrick was named CEO of Zynga.  Before that, Mattrick used to be the head of Microsoft Corporation’s entertainment division.  In 2010, Mattrick spent time negotiating with Zynga CEO Mark Pincus about buying them out, according to sources with Bloomberg.  Mattrick had plans to bolster the Xbox with a line of social games as part of the potential acquisition.  Clearly that deal fell apart and Zynga continues to struggle financially.

Mattrick is taking over Zynga at a time where the company lost their crown as the top game maker on Facebook to King.com.  Zynga is also struggling to make a dent on the mobile gaming market.  Zynga’s stock price dropped around 66% since going public in December 2011.  Another challenge for Mattrick is that Pincus will still have a lot of the final say in terms of the company’s direction.

When Mattrick was 17, he decided not to go to college and started his first company.  Mattrick made a lot of great decisions when he spent time working at Electronic Arts and Microsoft since then.  He quickly axed projects and reassigned teams when he was not happy with the results at both companies.  Zynga will likely be his greatest challenge since they are not exactly a giant compared to EA and Microsoft.  Zynga’s revenue dropped 18% in the first quarter and analysts are predicting revenues to continue dropping in the next four quarters too.  Zynga shut down several of their offices and games in the last year as part of an effort to focus on mobile devices.

Mattrick became involved with both EA and Microsoft through acquisitions.  He sold his startup Distinctive Software to EA in 1991 and BigPark Inc. to Microsoft Corporation in 2009.  While working on the Xbox, Mattrick made sure to push the console into becoming an entertainment device by making deals with Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, and YouTube.

Since Mattrick started talking with Pincus about an acquisition in 2010, the two of them stayed in touch.  Pincus started to seriously approach Mattrick for an executive position this past March.  The two of them are road-bike enthusiasts that went on rides regularly with each other.  Offering Mattrick a hefty salary and signing bonus also helped bring him to Zynga.

[Image Credit: Zynga, Don Mattrick (left), Mark Pincus (right)]