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Zynga’s executive exodus continues as CCO departs

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As Zynga's stock continues to hover around its all-time low, the number of high-level executives bailing from the social games maker is reaching critical mass.

Chief Creative Officer Mike Verdu is the latest to jump ship, announcing Tuesday that he was leaving the company to start a new firm.

"Being at Zynga in the early days reminded me of how much I love being an entrepreneur," Verdu wrote in a company blog. "After a lot of soul-searching, I have decided to go back to my roots and start a new company."

That may well be the straight story, but Verdu is the fifth executive to depart Zynga this month, a sign that the company is on shaky ground.

First out of the door was chief operating officer John Schappert, a long-time Microsoft and Electronic Arts veteran who saw his game oversight responsibilities stripped away by CEO Mark Pincus earlier in the month. Many feel Schappert was being made into a sacrificial lamb for the company's woes.

Next out was Alan Patmore, general manager of CityVille, who left the company last week to go to work for competitor Kixeye.

Other key departures include Ya-Bing Chu, a vice president in the company's mobile division; Erik Bethke, the general manager who oversaw Mafia Wars 2; and general manager Jeremy Strauser.

Verdu, though, says he knows his departure is bad timing, but it has nothing to do with declining morale at the company or a lack of faith in the vision.

"I personally don't want to add to the noise level," he told AllThingsD. "I think this will be a good thing for me and for Zynga. … I'm concerned about how this might be viewed with what else is going on, but it's not a function of anything else going on at the company."

The company's stock, meanwhile, continues to suffer. Shares, which initially sold for $10 and hit highs of nearly $16 in the past nine months, are currently trading for roughly $3 each. The company also recently reported an earnings shortfall and reduced its guidance for the coming quarters.

And analysts don't think the bad news is over.

"It probably is suggestive of more than a single quarter miss," said Mike Hickey of National Alliance Capital Markets of Schappert's demotion and departure. "You probably have a multi-quarter trend. [Pincus is] kind of giving you a heads up here."

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