Zynga's COO quits as stock continues slide

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Aug 9, 2012 5:37am IST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Zynga Inc's chief operating officer John Schappert has resigned, the company said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday, a move that was foreshadowed by a recent management shakeup at the game publisher.

The resignation from Schappert, a former Electronic Arts executive, did not arise from "any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company's operations, policies or practices," the filing said.

But it came as no surprise to Zynga's followers after the social gaming company behind Facebook-based hits like "FarmVille" said earlier this month that Schappert had ceded many of his game development responsibilities while Zynga shuffled its top management ranks after reporting a net loss for its second quarter.

Zynga elevated David Ko, its chief mobile officer, and Executive Vice President of Games Steve Chiang, to top positions overseeing game development alongside Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus.

The company did not immediately name a replacement for Schappert on Wednesday.

"John has made significant contributions to the games industry throughout his career and we appreciate all that he has done for Zynga," Pincus said on Wednesday in a statement. "John leaves as a friend of the company and we wish him all the best."

Zynga reported a net loss for its second quarter in late July and cut its full-year earnings per share forecast, news that sent shares down roughly 40 percent and attracted shareholder lawsuits accusing the company of misguiding investors.

The company blamed its poor quarter on sudden changes to Facebook's algorithm, and delays in its pipeline of new titles.

Zynga is one of several Internet startups that debuted with fanfare in late 2011.

In May 2011, Zynga hired Schappert from competitor Electronic Arts with a cash and stock package worth more than $42.7 million. The package included a base salary of $300,000 last year.

Schappert, a respected gaming industry veteran and former COO at EA, was also mentioned in a lawsuit filed last week by his former employer against Zynga.

EA accused Zynga of copying key elements of "The Sims Social" title, alleging that Zynga obtained confidential development information by hiring three of EA's top employees, including Schappert, on the eve of that game's launch.

Zynga responded that EA's lawsuit showed "a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles."

Zynga closed on Wednesday at $2.95 and slipped further in after-hours trade. Its stock debuted in December at $10.

(Reporting By Gerry Shih; Editing by Bernard Orr and Carol Bishopric)

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