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Zynga Is Said to Poach Electronic Arts COO Amid Gaming Rivalry

Zynga Inc., the online-game maker, has hired John Schappert, who resigned as Electronic Arts Inc.’s chief operating officer yesterday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Schappert, who spent much of his career at Electronic Arts and had a stint at Microsoft Corp., will take a senior role at Zynga, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the hire hasn’t been announced. Schappert’s last day at Electronic Arts was yesterday, the company said in a regulatory filing.

Zynga, the maker of the "CityVille" and "FarmVille" games, has poached several executives from rival Electronic Arts to fill its ranks with video-game industry veterans. It hired game studio executive Steve Chiang last year, and in 2008 brought in game designer Mark Skaggs. Zynga adviser Bing Gordon, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, was formerly the chief creative officer at Electronic Arts.

Dani Dudeck, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Zynga, declined comment on whether Schappert had been hired.

John Riccitiello, Chief Executive Officer of Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts, does not plan to replace Schappert, said Jeff Brown, a spokesman for the company.

In a memo to employees today, Riccitiello announced a reorganization that leaves Nancy Smith, head of publishing, Barry Cottle, head of mobile games, and Dave DeMartini, senior vice president of Electronic Arts’ global online unit, all reporting directly to him.

Electronic Arts Shops

Electronic Arts, the second-largest video-game publisher, purchased the U.K.-based publisher of “Angry Birds” in October to add titles made for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad. In November 2009, Electronic Arts bought Playfish, then the second-largest maker of games on Facebook Inc., for as much as $400 million to gain a bigger foothold in casual online play.

Schappert came to Electronic Arts in 1998 when the game giant acquired his development company, Tiburon Studios, in Maitland, Florida. He left in 2007 to head Microsoft’s Xbox Live unit before returning to Electronic Arts in 2009 as president and chief operating officer.

Schappert’s hiring by Zynga was previously reported by Reuters.

Zynga’s estimated worth passed Electronic Arts’ stock-market value in October. The online games startup is worth $8.19 billion according to SharesPost Inc., an exchange for shares of privately held companies. Electronic Arts is worth $6.76 billion on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Zynga is in talks to raise funding from T. Rowe Price Group and Fidelity Investments at a valuation of $10 billion, two people familiar with the matter said in February. Earlier this month, the company hired former Cisco Systems Inc. executive Debra Chrapaty to be its chief information officer.

Electronic Arts slipped 31 cents to $20.23 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. It has climbed 24 percent this year.

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