Owen Van Natta, who went fromto a to an , has been hired at social-gaming powerhouse Zynga as "executive vice president of business operations." He will report directly to Mark Pincus, the founder and CEO.
The official job description for Van Natta's role explains that he is "responsible for the company's revenue strategy, corporate development, international expansion, and brand" and also serves on the company's board of directors.
Zynga, which manufactures a portfolio of games like Mafia Wars and FarmVille that made it the biggest breakout sensation on Facebook's developer platform, is rumored to be mulling an IPO. Last month, AllThingsD pointed out that Van Natta had become close to Pincus and appeared to already be in some kind of advisory role at Zynga. The bio for Van Natta on Zynga's site confirms that, saying that he was "consulting."
Van Natta's boardroom romp around Silicon Valley has been well-documented. He had been a vice president at Amazon when he was hired as chief operating officer at Facebook in 2005;in what some critics pegged as a demotion, and in early 2008 departed the company. He was vocal about seeking specifically a CEO role; some speculated that he left Facebook when it became clear that he would not be a successor to founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Later that year, Van Natta, then a hyped-up music streaming start-up. Less than six months later, MySpace following the departure of co-founder Chris DeWolfe (who is now, oddly enough, in an attempt to rival Zynga). But MySpace's traffic continued to falter and the News Corp.-owned social network's attempts to refocus as a music hub failed to catch on, and .
Meanwhile, Project Playlist, now known as Playlist.com, hasn't been doing so well either--it, yet another sign that the profitability of free streaming music was largely an illusion.
Social gaming, however, is another story. Thanks to the astonishing amount of real money being spent on virtual goods in games like FarmVille, Zynga has been growing fast. The company recently received $150 million in funding to, and in one of those personnel moves that seemed to signal an IPO on the horizon.
But Zynga's relationship with Facebook, on whose platform the majority of gameplay takes place, has. Part of Van Natta's job, undoubtedly, will be striking deals and negotiations with his old boss.