9 Of The Biggest Executive Departures At Zynga

Zynga lost another batch of executives on Monday. But they are hardly the only ones that have left in the past year or so.

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Another three executives have resigned from Zynga as the company has started its turnaround process in earnest following the hiring of former Xbox executive Don Mattrick as CEO, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

Nathan Etter, who led the company’s FarmVille studios, has left to join Disney’s interactive media group. Jesse Janosov, who had been at the company for a little more than a year, along with John Oswald, a senior vice president at the company, have also left, though there was no indication where they are headed.

Zynga is still in the midst of a massive turnaround, and many executives — like those that departed this month — might not have a place in the future of the company. And in the place of some of these classic gaming veterans, Zynga has acquired talent like chief operating officer David Ko, who was fast-tracked during a re-organization last year due to his mobile acumen. It’s laid off more than 500 employees this year, but that also opens the door to focusing on more modern titles.

Zynga is re-organizing itself under Mattrick to be, essentially, a company that focuses on producing games that people want to play rather than share virally after ditching its plans to pursue real-money gambling games.

That being said, Zynga has lost a bunch of other essential employees over the past year and those three are hardly some of the most important.

1. Owen Van Natta

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Many sources close to former CEO Mark Pincus have often often pointed out that he had a tendency to develop a very close relationship with various executives throughout his time of the company, but after 12 to 18 months, “falls out of love with them.” Those same sources point to Van Natta as one of the first of Zynga’s executives to fall to that behavior.

Van Natta’s resume reads like an a-list when it comes to tech companies, including the likes of Amazon and Facebook. Van Natta finally resigned from the company’s board of directors following Mattrick’s hiring.

2. Mike Verdu

Considered by many of his colleagues to have a bit of an entrepreneurial skew, it should come as no surprise that Verdu left Zynga to start his own company with a few other colleagues called TapZen. That company raised $10 million from Zynga and is producing games for tablets.

Verdu left Zynga in August last year.

3. Dan Porter

While he didn’t hold as high of an executive role as some of the others on this list, the departure of Dan Porter was a massive red flag for the health and future of Zynga’s New York operations. A few short months later, amid poor performance of its new games and some massive corporate politicking, Zynga’s New York operations were shuttered. Offices in Los Angeles and Dallas were closed as well.

4. Dave Wehner

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After serving as chief financial officer throughout the process of Zynga going public all the way up to its stock’s free fall, Wehner left the company to go work at Facebook as a VP of corporate finance. He left Zynga in November last year, but not before unloading half his shares while the stock was at its peak.

5. John Schappert

After Zynga’s stock price cratered, the company quickly found its Web empire stagnating and some of its largest bets — like The Ville, a game much like EA’s The Sims Social — fading fast.

As a result, there wasn’t much room for those with a kind of Web pedigree, even given the long history Schappert had building games at Electronic Arts. Like Wehner, though, Schappert had a chance to unload some of his stock while the price was at its peak.

6. Jeff Karp

Via Zynga

Like Schappert, Karp was another Electronic Arts alumnus that Zynga quickly found less useful than its rising mobile stars like David Ko. Karp left amid a major re-organization of the company that placed Ko, the company’s chief mobile officer, and exec Steve Chiang directly under Pincus.

7. Allan Leinwand

Working on Zynga’s infrastructure, Leinwand was one of the leading forces behind the massive push to produce a tech infrastructure that would support its games — and more importantly, help them grow quickly to millions of active users without crashing. Zynga previously relied on Amazon’s tech infrastructure, which was at times subject to downtime outside of Zynga’s control, before migrating everything over to the company’s proprietary “zCloud” tech infrastructure.

Leinwand left Zynga in September last year to go work at ServiceNow.

8. Amir Rahimi

Another Electronic Arts alumni, Rahimi was one of the executives in Zynga’s Los Angeles studio before leaving to join Verdu at TapZen.

9. Brian Reynolds

At the time of his departure earlier this year, Reynolds’ title was “chief game designer.” In addition to having his hand in many of Zynga’s most popular games, Reynolds founded the company’s Baltimore studios — which were subsequently shuttered just months ago. Reynolds had significant credibility with the gaming community, having worked on games like Civilization II.

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