Conflicting reports emerge about why Don Mattrick is leaving Microsoft


Don Mattrick is leaving Microsoft shortly after revealing the Xbox One, but why he's departing is unclear.

Don Mattrick will no longer be the head of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business unit come next week, when he takes over as chief executive of Zynga. While his departure is now known, the reason for leaving Microsoft still isn't clear.

According to a profile of Mattrick by Fast Company, the Microsoft executive is leaving for Zynga because of an upcoming Microsoft reorganization that's expected to be announced soon. Fast Company claims its sources said Mattrick wouldn't be getting a bigger role if he remained at Microsoft, though that conflicts with previous reports that Mattrick would be one of only four to six executives that would see their roles expanded at the company.

Despite Fast Company's reports, others have been quick to say Mattrick's decision to leave has been in the works for months.

USA Today's report of Mattrick's hiring claims sources said Zynga courted the Microsoft executive for nine months, but the talks only became serious in the spring. At that time, Mattrick and current Zynga CEO Mark Pincus "started working out parameters over an executive partnership," according to USA Today's sources. AllThingsD, which broke the news of Mattrick's departure, also reported that "the move appears to be largely unrelated to to the massive restructuring" at Microsoft.

Some outlets have speculated that Mattrick leaving relates to Microsoft's backpedaling on digital rights management issues, which was largely seen as an embarrassment to the company. Microsoft was panned for the DRM inclusion, while Sony's E3 press conference featured a standing ovation when it was announced the PlayStation 4 wouldn't require any mandatory Internet checks or limit the sale of used games as the Xbox One originally would have.

Another report by USA Today regarding Mattrick's departure indicates his decision to leave was unrelated to the Xbox One DRM issues, citing an analyst from Baird Equity Research. If USA Today's reports are accurate, Mattrick's discussions with Pincus took place long before the DRM requirements were even announced.

Several media reports have noted that Mattrick's byline appeared on the letter announcing the rollback of Xbox One's DRM plans, though it's more likely the post was ghostwritten for the Microsoft executive. Companies routinely attach executive names to major announcements to recognize their importance; last year, for instance, it was reported that Scott Fortsall was fired from Apple for refusing to attach his name to the company's apology for the quality of iOS Maps. Instead of the byline being attributed to Forstall, who was the vice president of the iOS division at the time, Apple CEO Tim Cook was credited for the ghostwritten note.

Mattrick has been linked to vacant chief executive positions in the past, including at Electronic Arts, where he spent much of his career prior to joining Microsoft. Zynga has found itself in financial turmoil in recent months, with the company announcing it would lay off more than 500 employees earlier this year while also closing a number of development studios. The company had a successful initial public offering, with stock prices exceeding $10 per share, though its stock prices now hover near the $3 mark.

Microsoft has yet to announce Mattrick's replacement, with Xbox executives now directly reporting to CEO Steve Ballmer.

Sources: Fast Company, USA Today, AllThingsD | Image via Microsoft

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