(Corrects story originally published at 7:58 a.m. EDT to say that Don Mattrick left his post as head of Microsoft's Xbox unit.)
Some were surprised that Mark Pincus -- a guy who controls 60% of voting control of the company and someone thought of as a micro-manager -- would allow a professional manager to replace him. He had given multiple impressions that he wanted the job of Zynga CEO for life.
Clearly, though, Pincus wanted this move. No one puts someone with 60% voting control in a corner.
The reason why Pincus thought this was the best for his company was probably a lot to do with Mattrick and also something to do with Pincus' own realizations of his limitations running a company the size of Zynga in the current competitive environment.
Zynga's shareholders are fortunate that they have a CEO in Pincus who is able to see his own shortcomings, as well as to have built a company strong enough to attract a person the caliber of Mattrick.
It's easy to slam Pincus for not seeing the shift to mobile happen as fast as it did. How many did?
And Pincus wasn't in the fortunate position as Facebook (FB) co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who could just respond to that shift by stuffing more ads in the newsfeed. I tip my hat to the Facebook team for reacting as swiftly as it did to pivot to mobile, but it didn't see that move to mobile coming any better than Pincus did. And Facebook isn't in an unforgiving hits business Pincus was.
Some critics like to jump on Pincus for selling stock in February 2012 before it collapsed. The guy started this company in 2007. Five years later, he wants to cash out some of his holdings? Are you really going to begrudge him that opportunity? Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, have sold some stock along the way. Isn't that capitalism? You want early venture capitalists to be able to sell all their stock and the entrepreneur can't sell any?
For anyone writing stories that Pincus was the problem with Zynga in the last two years, I'd counter by saying that there is obviously no Zynga without Pincus. There was nobody who slingshot a gaming company from nothing to a mega-something in such a short time like PIncus did from 2007 to 2009 -- in the middle of financial Armageddon to boot.