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More Musical Chairs at Zynga: Board Member Frank Gibeau to Replace Founder Mark Pincus as CEO

Pincus returned to the CEO job less than a year ago.

Last year, Zynga founder Mark Pincus returned to the CEO job in order to right the ship at the struggling mobile gaming company.

Zynga’s comeback isn’t quite complete. But CEO Mark Pincus is stepping aside (again), and board member Frank Gibeau is taking the reins. Gibeau, who joined the Zynga board in August, worked at video game giant Electronic Arts for over two decades before leaving EA last spring. Pincus will now serve as the Executive Chairman, and maintain an active role in the company.

In a phone interview with Re/code, Pincus and Gibeau both repeatedly described the new executive arrangement as a “partnership.” Gibeau says that his job isn’t just playing the operations role to Pincus’s product guru, and that his role will be to “frame strategy, increase operational excellence and collaborate with Mark.”

“We’re poised to launch our biggest slate of new games … and they have the potential to really drive audience and bookings and growth on mobile,” Pincus said. “We’re not the first company to go through multiple CEO changes until we get it right, and we won’t be the last.”

The last few years have been hard on Zynga. Fueled by the rise of Facebook-based games like FarmVille and Words With Friends, Zynga was a profit behemoth powered by social games. After its end of 2011 IPO that gave it a $7 billion valuation, however, things turned south as the company struggled to add new users and keep wringing revenue from its existing ones, as fewer and fewer people played Facebook games. Its share price peaked at around $15 a share in March of 2012, dropped to $2.72 later that summer and it hasn’t risen above $5.58 since summer 2014.

All in all, social and mobile gaming companies have had a rough go of it over the last couple years. Angry Birds parent Rovio has been struggling for awhile now, and Candy Crush maker King limped onto the public market before getting acquired by Activision late last year.

More recently, Pincus has tried to stabilize things at Zynga and get the company making new games again (which, in a way, he has succeeded at; Zynga’s share price has only fallen by 6 percent in the last year). Last year, he returned to the CEO gig and replaced former EA exec Don Mattrick. In 2013, Pincus stepped down from the top job amid criticism of Zynga’s failure to make the jump to mobile.

In its most recent quarterly earnings, Zynga continued to show decent business with existing games like Slots and Words With Friends, but its stock fell sharply because of its slimming customer base and a lack of new games in the holiday quarter. The company says that it plans to launch 10 new games this year.

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