Zynga Names Van Natta To Key Post, Board

Game maker Zynga on Friday named former MySpace head Owen Van Natta as its new EVP of business operations.

"He starts on Monday," said a source close to the situation. "In his role, he will be overseeing all business operations, including revenue, corporate development, international, and brands." Zynga said it did not plan on making a formal announcement about the hire.

This is Van Natta's fourth stop on the new media executive circuit in about two years. In early 2008, he left Facebook, as chief revenue officer and VP of operations, to head up online music company Playlist, Inc. In April 2009, he took the reins as CEO of MySpace, before being booted from that position earlier this year.

Since then, Van Natta has spent a portion of his free time consulting for Zynga. "He gelled really nicely in that role," said the source. "Mark wanted to bring him on right away," the source added, referring to Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus.

The hires comes just weeks after Zynga hired Allen & Co. investment banker David Wehner as its new Chief Financial Officer -- a move that was largely interpreted as a sign that an IPO is in the company's future.



San Francisco-based Zynga creates games like "FarmVille" and "Mafia Wars," which have thrived on social networks like Facebook, as well as among early mobile app adopters.

While Zynga has taken issue with Facebook for limiting the ways it can contact users through the social net's notification system, the two companies recently reached a deal to partner for at least the next five years. By all accounts, Zynga is trying to decrease its dependence on Facebook, however. In May, it announced a partnership with Yahoo to offer its games throughout the Web portal's network including the home page, Yahoo Games and Yahoo Mail.

Late last month, meanwhile, Zynga said it raised $150 million from Japanese wireless carrier Softbank. The partners also announced plans to develop and distribute social games in Japan via a new Zynga Japan joint venture.

Along with the obvious opportunities to expand its user-base, the Asian enterprise is expected to help Zynga "gain insights from the Japanese market," Pincus said upon the announcement.

Per the appointment, Van Natta is also joining Zynga's five member board.

It's hard to blame Van Natta for his short stint at MySpace. Many consider the News. Corp unit an unsalvageable sinking ship. In June, not long after Van Natta's departure, Co-President Jason Hirschhorn made an abrupt departure. Earlier this year, meanwhile News Corp. reported that digital media earnings were down $32 million compared to a year earlier, while eMarketer recently predicted that ad spending at MySpace would fall 21% this year to $385 million worldwide.

"That was never a consideration," the source regarding Van Natta's tenure at MySpace. "He's great at building scale, and that's what Zynga is focused on -- It's all about growth."

Prior to Facebook, Van Natta served as vice president of worldwide business and corporate development for Amazon.com. In that role, he managed global marketing programs and strategic partnerships, and was also part of the founding team of A9.com, the Amazon.com search company, and was responsible for site operations and sponsored-link advertising.

Next story loading loading..