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Zynga cofounder Pincus returns as CEO two years after stepping down

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus in 2012.   Zynga CEO Mark Pincus in 2012.
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus in 2012. Photograph by Stephen Lam — Reuters

Zynga cofounder Mark Pincus has rejoined the struggling online social gaming company as CEO less than two years after stepping down from that very position and nearly one year after withdrawing from the company’s day-to-day operations.

Pincus is returning to take control of San Francisco-based Zynga (ZNGA) from the man who replaced him in 2013, Don Mattrick, who Pincus himself heralded as the successor who could fix the once high-profile company. Now, Mattrick is the one departing Zynga after failing to halt ongoing financial struggles, declining, revenue and mounting quarterly losses.

Pincus helped create Zynga in 2007 and the company soon gained millions of monthly active users through popular social games played on mobile devices and networks such as Facebook (FB), including FarmVille and Zynga Poker. He later stepped aside in favor of Mattrick after Zynga’s financial performance began to falter when a string of newer games failed to gain much traction.

Pincus remained with Zynga for less than a year as the company’s chief product officer before leaving that role as well, last year. Pincus had recently been serving as non-executive chairman of Zynga’s board.

Mattrick, who previously led Microsoft’s (MSFT) Interactive Entertainment unit, was unable to improve on Zynga’s performance. The company recently reported $690 million in 2014 revenue, a 21% decline from 2013 and nearly half the company’s revenue in 2012, Pincus’ last year at the helm. Zynga’s operating losses grew to $226 million last year from $37 million in 2013.

“Don joined us in a very important time in our evolution,” Pincus said in a statement. “I sincerely thank him for his leadership in better serving our players in a mobile first world and for delivering world-class quality and value to our consumers.”

Zynga’s stock, a high-flier in its initial public offering in 2011, has fallen off by nearly 31% over the past year. The company’s share price dropped again, by about 10%, in after-hours trading following the announcement about Pincus’ return.

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