UPDATE 3-EA's COO leaves for Zynga - sources

Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:29pm EDT

* John Schappert taking senior games role at Zynga - source

* Zynga gains exec with public company experience-analyst

* Move could help Zynga in IPO-analyst

* EA shares down 1.3 pct (Adds share move, management background)

By Liana B. Baker and Yinka Adegoke

NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) - Zynga, the social games company, has poached the chief operating officer of Electronic Arts Inc ERTS.O, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The executive, John Schappert, will head up Zynga's game division, one of the sources said.

Zynga, which has enjoyed explosive growth with games such as FarmVille and CityVille, is gaining an executive with deep experience in leading a publicly traded video game company, which could help it gear up for an initial public offering, analysts said.

A regulatory filing released on Tuesday showed Schappert resigned from EA on Monday. He had worked at the video game publisher for 22 months, and before that at Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) for two years.

Schappert will join Zynga's senior management team alongside Chief Executive Mark Pincus, Executive Vice President Owen Van Natta and Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner.

Schappert, a video game veteran, previously held the No. 2 position at EA. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said he will be instrumental in helping Pincus develop a fast growing company with a rising valuation.

Zynga has expanded rapidly through small acquisitions at the rate of about one a month in the last year as it seeks to dominate the casual gaming market.

In the last few months it has tapped senior executives from major technology and Internet firms like Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) and Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) as it beefs up its executive talent, possibly ahead of an IPO.

Zynga was reported to have raised about $500 million in its last round of funding, valuing the company at up to $10 billion.

"If Zynga is serious about going public, they need someone who knows how to do it. They just grabbed a guy to give them what they were missing -- public management experience," Pachter said.

At EA, Schappert helped spearhead the effort to boost the company's digital business through games for mobile devices, as well as social games on Facebook. EA has said it is on track to generate $750 million in digital revenue this year.

EA shares fell 1.3 percent to $20.27 in midday trading on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Yinka Adegoke, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)

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