Jeffrey Katzenberg on why he joined Zynga's board
DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg surprised many in Hollywood when he announced in April that he had joined the board of a San Francisco start-up that makes games played on Facebook.
On Friday, that company, Zynga Inc., went public on Nasdaq, cashing in more than $1 billion -- the most raised in an initial public offering of a U.S.-based technology company since Google Inc. raised $1.66 billion in 2004.
Katzenberg, who had rarely spoken publicly about his involvement in Zynga, on Friday explained in an interview with The Times what drew him to the developer of FarmVille, CityVille and a dozen or so other games.
Here's an edited version of the conversation.
How did you first hear of Zynga?
Katzenberg: A couple of years ago, along with tens of millions of other people, I became a customer and a fan.
So you play their games? Do you consider yourself to be a gamer?
Katzenberg: I started with Zynga Poker. And then I moved into all the "Villes," including the new one, CastleVille. It’s addictive and fun. I check into those games pretty regularly, but I don’t class myself as a gamer.
How did you meet Mark Pincus, the chief executive of Zynga?
Katzenberg: I actually met Mark a year and half ago at an Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley. I was on a panel at the conference with Barry Diller, Howard Stringer and others. The interviewer said to each of us, "If you were 25 years old today, what would you be doing?" I said, "That’s easy. I’d be Mark Pincus and make casual games." Turns out Mark was sitting in the back of the room, and he said, “Yeah!” So that's how I met him.
What do you bring to the table as a board member of Zynga?
Katzenberg: One of the ways in which I tried to be helpful to Mark was to offer him some guidance on the process of taking a company public. I had done it with DreamWorks, and I was able to share some of that knowledge with him.
Being the CEO of a public company must be brutal, with investors throwing your stock every which way. What would you say to Mark today after Zynga's shares lost 5% on its IPO day?
Katzenberg: We’re in this for long haul. Mark is committed to creating long-term value for shareholders. The hour-to-hour and day-to-day movement of stock is not something that will hold sway over Mark. He wants to build the greatest casual-gaming company in the world. In some ways, he already has.
-- Alex Pham
Photo: Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, has been on the board of Zynga since April. Credit: Mike Blake / Reuters