SAN DIEGO, CALIF. (TheStreet) -- Zynga (ZNGA) - Get Zynga Inc. Class A Report chairman and founder Mark Pincus is returning to the company he created in 2007 as its chief executive officer, the company announced after the markets closed on Wednesday.
Pincus is replacing Don Mattrick, who, as of Wednesday, has departed from the social gaming company and its board of directors. Mattrick served as Zynga's chief executive officer for nearly two years, where investors were hoping he would turnaround the struggling company that is best known for its FarmVille game franchise.
Shares of Zynga finished up 3.6% at $2.90 on Wednesday, with prices up 9% on the year. But in after-hours trading Zynga plunged 10.3% to $2.60. The stock, meanwhile, remains well off an early 2012 short-lived run in the high $15 range. Zynga's stock collapsed in August 2012, on the back of weak earnings and a then over-dependence on Facebook's (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report social network to deliver users. Zynga's shares have remained depressed ever since.
Pincus' return as CEO could help to reinvigorate the company, which is hoping Wall Street will reward it for improved performance on mobile. In the fourth quarter, Zynga posted a 120% increase in mobile bookings over the prior year, and a 14% increase over the previous quarter.
"Now that we are a mobile first company, it's time to renew our focus on our vision to make play and social games a mass market activity," Pincus wrote in an internal email to Zynga staffers. "I am returning to the company that I love in order to accelerate innovation in the most popular categories like Action Strategy and strengthen our focus on our core areas like Invest and Express."
The ousted Mattrick said previously the company's 2015 priorities would be to continue its growth in mobile, launch more products, and build on its "social legacy." The last bit likely proved more true than Mattrick expected, as Pincus, now back at the helm, is the one-and-the-same with the company's legacy, though for reasons good and bad. A well-known figure in Silicon Valley, Pincus is a polarizing entrepreneur whose leadership abilities have been questioned by Wall Street in the past.
Pincus said in the Wednesday email to staffers that he plans to shed more light on a plan to attract more mobile players during Zynga's first-quarter results conference call on May 7. The reinstated CEO will receive an annual salary of $1, emulating other high-profile Silicon Valley executives including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.