Wall Street Watch Tuesday: Zynga Execs Keep Bolting


There seems to be a cruel game being played at Zynga (ZNGA). Another of its key executives -- this time chief revenue and marketing officer Jeff Karp -- has resigned from the leading social gaming company.

Zynga, the company that brought casual gamers FarmVille, Words With Friends, and Mafia Wars has been having a hard time holding on to its high-ranking employees lately.

Karp's departure was revealed in an SEC filing after Monday's market close. He will receive three months of his base pay as severance and the vesting of his 100,000 stock units will accelerate.

That final point is worth exploring. Tech companies offer stock options and grants as incentives to keep key hires, but what happens when stock prices go the wrong way?
Zynga went public at $10 a share in December. The shares may have peaked in the mid-teens in March -- as buzz for Facebook's (FB) IPO was peaking -- but it's been all downhill for Zynga ever since. The stock closed at $2.82 on Monday.

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Are executives leaving because of the meandering share price or is the share price meandering because the company's growth prospects aren't as rosy as they used to be?

Cynics will argue that the executive turnover may do Zynga some good. New blood can be a good thing. Karp certainly had the right pedigree. He was a former executive at Electronic Arts (EA), the country's second largest video game software company.

However, as Zynga executives keep dropping like flies, let's hope that the silver lining doesn't end up being a new game called Shuffling Executives With Friends.

Other Things Worth Watching

• Shuffle Master (SHFL) was dealt a bad hand in its latest quarter. The maker of casino games and automatic card shufflers posted disappointing quarterly results on Monday night. Shuffle Master's quarterly profit of $0.18 a share may be better than the $0.17 a share it rang up a year earlier, but Wall Street was holding out for net income of $0.20 a share. In a casino, you don't see the house hitting on 18, but Shuffle Master's not playing blackjack here. Its stock did take a hit in Monday afterhours trading on the soft bottom-line showing.

• Palo Alto Networks (PANW) didn't miss with its first quarterly report as a public company. The provider of networking security solutions managed to post a small adjust profit on a better than expected 88% surge in revenue. Analysts were holding out for merely breakeven results on $71 million in revenue. Palo Alto Networks went public this summer at $42, and it continues to trade well above that mark. Maybe Zynga executives can swap their stock units for shares of Palo Alto?

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Facebook.

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