Don Mattrick conducted talks with Zynga founder Mark Pincus about a possible Microsoft buyout of the company in 2010, claim sources.
Mattrick left his job as the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division last week to replace Pincus as the social game developer and publisher’s CEO, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests the relationship between the two may have begun three years ago.
Zynga made it big in 2009 with Farmville, and confidential sources say that Mattrick attempted to orchestrate a buyout that would have put Zynga’s games on Xbox Live.
The talks didn’t go anywhere at the time, but the report claims that the two executives kept in touch.
One source claimed that the relationship turned a corner this March when the pair – both road bike enthusiasts – began riding together, and started to talk about opportunities for Mattrick at Zynga.
Some industry commentators say that Mattrick’s departure from Microsoft’s Xbox division, which has been in the midst of turmoil over details of the Xbox One, is a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’.
Zynga’s value has plummeted since its 2011 IPO, and Mattrick has been brought on to reverse course.
While his record gives ample cause for hope, the CEO will have to act fast if he is to maintain the momentum his defection has given the struggling Zynga.
“Mattrick faces two challenges,” said University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon.
“He has to find a way to turn around a company that went from cool to cold, and he has work out his relationship to Mark Pincus, who won’t be CEO but will be in control.”