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Disney Interactive Media Group executive leaves for rival Zynga

Adam Sussman is headed for the farm.  FarmVille, that is.

Sussman, senior vice president of publishing at the Disney Interactive Media Group, has left the Burbank entertainment giant to join social games rival Zynga.  His departure comes just eight months after he joined Disney. 

In January, his arrival was trumpeted by the division's new executive team. Sussman came to Disney with strong credentials from Electronic Arts Inc., where he helped shape the game publisher's highly profitable mobile business.

"He and his team hold the strategic imperative to maximize both reach and distribution mix in how we communicate and interact with our users and customers," John Pleasants and Jimmy Pitaro, co-presidents of Disney Interactive, wrote in a January email to staff.

On Friday, however, Pleasants sent a more abbreviated email to the group to notify them of Sussman's resignation, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Sussman, contacted by phone, did not dispute reports of him leaving Disney to join San Francisco-based Zynga.  

A spokeswoman for Zynga declined to comment, and a Disney Interactive spokeswoman did not return calls.

Disney's Interactive Media Group, which encompasses video games, online virtual worlds and Disney's Web properties, has struggled to turn a profit. The division reported an operating loss of $86 million in Disney's latest quarter ended July 2. 

Zynga, by contrast, has become a darling of Silicon Valley as the leading social games publisher.  Its initial public offering of stock was highly anticipated on Wall Street but the company has delayed the IPO because of poor market conditions.

Zynga has been successful in developing games on Facebook, but has struggled with other platforms such as the Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Google Inc.'s Android. 

The social games company is beefing up its expertise in mobile, in recognition that investors will want to see Zynga grow its business beyond Facebook.

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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski and Alex Pham 

 
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