What’s it take to make a billionaire entrepreneur cry? Low morale, a talent exodus and laggard stock price, according to The Wall Street Journal’s dive into the troubles of Zynga chief executive officer Mark Pincus.
Per The Journal, Mr. Pincus was encouraged to meet with Bill Campbell, a board director at Apple and a sort of Silicon Valley CEO, to help the gaming CEO halt Zynga’s post-IPO stock plunge:
Mr. Campbell, a technology veteran who has coached Silicon Valley CEOs such as Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, had been called in by Zynga investor and venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to advise Mr. Pincus as the social games company’s stock plunged and some of its online games lost traction. Some Kleiner Perkins partners warned Mr. Campbell that he might not make much progress.
But at the meeting, where the two men discussed Zynga’s management challenges, Mr. Pincus was open to advice. Mr. Pincus “was discouraged,” said Mr. Campbell, adding that the CEO was near tears. He “felt terrible about what was happening; he felt the turmoil.”
After meeting with Mr. Campbell, Mr. Pincus made changes big and small: He axed his chief operating officer, John Schappert, and integrated Zynga’s mobile unit into the gaming studios, replaced his BlackBerry with an iPhone and created the first company-wide stock options grant.
Not that it’s been smooth sailing. Some Zynga employees deemed the options offered as piddling, and asked if they could refuse the grants in protest. The company lost chief marketing officer Jeff Karp in September, and in October, the company laid off 150 employees. The share price continued to slide. Earlier this week, Zynga announced that chief financial officer David Wehner was leaving for Facebook amid a C-suite shakeup.
Still, in the eyes of his new guru, at least, Mr. Pincus is making progress. A good thing, because if Zynga’s woes continue, at least he’ll have a shoulder to cry on.