So, Mark “My Only Exit Is By Natural Causes” Pincus has exited Zynga. And no, he didn’t die. And yes, this is different than his CEO to Head of Product switch. This time, he’s officially stepping away from operations, keeping only his position as chairman of the board, as announced in a blog post alongside Zynga’s quarter one earnings results.
In his memo to the staff, Pincus says the following:
I’m writing today to share that I have decided to change my role to non-executive Chairman. This means that, while I’ll still keep an office at Zynga, and be active in supporting the company, I will not have an operating role. Most importantly, I remain Zynga’s largest shareholder and biggest believer.
He did his exit interview with ReCode, telling Kara Swisher, “I do not give myself very high marks as a CEO of a large-scale company…Managing more than 200 people, maybe 150 people, isn’t fun to me and is not my skill set.” The news spread rapidly through other media outlets. His departure came as a shock, with people calling it “game over” and “a big shakeup.”
When talking with Sarah Lacy about whether Levchin wishes he could have built Zynga, Levchin mentioned he saw Mark Pincus a few days prior. “He’s out of Zynga,” Levchin said. “He’s taking a bunch of time off to think about how to change the world.” See the clip below.
That was a different tune than Pincus was singing when he stepped down as Zynga’s CEO in July. At that time, Pincus said, “I’m excited to partner with Don and the rest of our team to return Zynga to its leadership role in inventing and growing Play as a core human experience.” On the Zynga website, he was listed as the Chief Product Officer and Chairman of the Board.
We wrote the story and reached out to Zynga for comment, and their VP of Communications, Dani Dudeck, flatly denied it. “I know for a fact he’s extremely committed to Zynga,” Dudeck said. “He’d have to be taken out of a box rolled out the door.” Dudeck said that although Pincus had stepped away from the day to day operations, it would be inaccurate to say his role at the company has changed.
She painted Levchin’s comments as being taken out of context, that Pincus probably just mentioned that he was taking more time with his family. Dudeck admitted that Pincus was no longer involved in day-to-day minutia, but said he had by no means left the company.
“We’re a public company and [such allegations] would have a dramatic effect on the business. He will stay involved in Zynga,” Dudeck said.
If mere allegations that Pincus has left would have a dramatic effect on the business, him actually quitting will make some waves. It seems they may potentially be good ones. At the time of publication, the AP reported that Zynga’s stock was up 3.6 percent in aftermarket trading.