In 1984, Doug Flutie, the quarterback for Boston College, threw a 50 yard touchdown pass with 6 seconds left in a nationally televised game against the college football powerhouse Miami Hurricanes. Boston won the game 47-45 and the pass became historical as much as it was improbable. (View the pass here)
In many ways it actually made Flutie's career. He was small for a quarterback, and had to scramble so he could see his receivers downfield. He was always an underdog but somehow managed to play professional football for 20 years and gain the respect and admiration of all who played with, and against him.
Zynga (ZNGA) is throwing a "Hail Mary" pass to "win the game."
The Mass Exodus Of Executives Continues
As noted in a Seeking Alpha "Market Current" yesterday afternoon, the stampede for the exits by top executives has reached the ridiculous stage.
"Monday 4:13 PM Zynga's (ZNGA -2.1%) executive losses are now bordering on surreal. Less than 24 hours after news broke that its infrastructure CTO had left, Zynga announces chief marketing and revenue officer Jeff Karp has also departed. Karp, like ex-COO John Schappert, was hired last year from Electronic Arts. While Zynga's cratering stock price has much to do with the defections, their scope can't reflect well on the company's culture or CEO Mark Pincus, both of which have been frequently criticized."
The company has been relentlessly beaten up and the share price has been relentlessly beaten down. The headlines of a failed business, and executives leaving, have only been trumped by the inappropriate timing of Mark Pincus' shares sales himself.
All of this has led to a share price which currently stands at about $2.80, and keeps sinking.
What has not been given as much attention are some of the moves that Zynga has been making. Some would call the moves a "Hail Mary" pass, with no time on the clock.
Could These Moves Score A Touchdown?
The two significant moves being made could actually turn everything around for Zynga.
- Moving away from Facebook (FB), and developing its own platform while moving into mobile applications.
- Attempting to become a force in online gambling.
Moving away from Facebook could likely be the most important move Zynga might take. With over $1 billion in cash and virtually no debt, they can create a platform, both online and mobile that could become far more profitable than relying on the Facebook "follies."
Zynga would not have to pay Facebook $.30 on every dollar and that money can be plowed back into the Zynga infrastructure, which would also enable them to do a much better job of keeping their on line games up to date and compelling. Much like Pogo.com has done so successfully.
Having some great games on mobile applications that actually work, would generate significant revenue as well as profits also.
As noted in this article, Zynga and Nokia have teamed up for both of their sakes;
"Zynga....... recently tied up with Nokia to add Draw Something and Zynga Poker to Nokia feature phones such as Nokia Asha Touch and the Nokia Series 40 range. The games will feature in the phones released in Q3 and will cover nearly 100 million users. Zynga game apps are already available for smartphones and the company plans to expand into feature phones to increase its user base and target emerging economies."
As far as online gambling is concerned, Zynga has hired a top notch executive, experience in online gambling, to spearhead this effort;
"The company has also hired a new COO, Maytal Ginzburg, who was most recently the senior VP of regulated markets at 888 Holdings, a U.K-based online gambling operator."
This will create the foundation for Zynga's push into this extraordinarily profitable industry.
"The online gambling market outside the U.S. is worth $32 billion and this is the market Zynga plans to enter. Zynga Poker is the world's largest social poker game and attracts users despite the fact that there is no pay off. Hiring Maytal Ginzburg seems to be a move to tap the real money gaming market. Zynga recently begun lobbying in Washington and California and its best chance to succeed is if online gaming becomes legal in the U.S."
Twenty-four analysts follow Zynga and there is only one sell recommendation. There are 18 hold recommendations as well as a few "outperforms" and "buy" rankings.
Does this mean this is a great investment? It depends on your tolerance for risk. If the moves being made to grow the business work for Zynga, the stock could easily double or triple from here. If not, the downside is $2.80/share.
For some, this just might be a gamble worth taking.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.