Armchair M&A: Roger McNamee on How Zynga May Spend That $1.8 Billion

By Sarah Lacy , written on April 17, 2012

From The News Desk

We went down to Menlo Park to interview Elevation Partners' Roger McNamee today. Love him or hate him -- and there are people in both camps -- McNamee is one of the most famed tech investors in the business, and according to the Wall Street Journal, he's working on raising Elevation's second fund.

McNamee legally can't touch that topic with a ten-foot pole. But we talked about nearly everything else under the Silicon Valley sun over an hour-plus interview. We'll be bringing several clips to you in the next few days -- including a deep dive into what McNamee calls the best opportunity for tech investing he's seen in more than fifteen years.

But one newsy topic we got into today was about Zynga and reports that it has $1.8 billion to spend on acquisitions. McNamee has a mixed view on the company. He says he passed on at the series A because of chemistry issues with founder and CEO Marc Pincus. But he said the vision Pincus laid out, even in those early days, was one of the best software models he'd ever seen.

I asked McNamee what he'd buy, if he were in the CEO chair. His take is in the video below. (Spoiler Alert: It's all about getting off Facebook.)

As a post script: The Bloomberg story speculated that ZeptoLab, maker of Cut the Rope, might be the next to join the Pincus empire. I wouldn't bet on it. I met with the founders in Moscow last month and, so far, like Rovio they've just said no to acquisitions.

CEO Misha Lyalin said he views his job as protecting the shareholders of the company, and the two dominant ones are the Voinov twins who created the games. What do those guys want? Not money, according to Lyalin, but to keep building games on their own terms. It's the same reason he hasn't taken venture capital yet. And Lyalin has a big vision for how he structures a large company around them.

Sure, everyone has a price. Instagram did. Twitter does. Rovio does. And ZeptoLab does. But I'm not sure Lyalin's price is what any rational company -- even the high-stepping Zynga -- would want to pay.

Stay tuned for more from our morning with Roger.