OMGPOP’s CEO Dan Porter: Goofus or Gallant?

by Joey deVilla on April 10, 2012

"Goofus and Gallant" comic: "Goofus is detached, inscrutable, manipulative / Gallant relates to others directly, intuitively, empathetically."


Last week, OMGPOP’s CEO Dan Porter had worked his way into popular techie demonology by bad-mouthing employee Shay Pierce, the only one at the company to turn down the offer to join when they were acquired by Zynga. Pierce wrote a piece in Gamasutra titled Turning down Zynga: Why I left after the $210M Omgpop buy.

Porter wasn’t too pleased with this and instead of simply remaining silent or at most saying “We wish Shay the best of luck in his future endeavours”, he vented on Twitter:

After being called out on it in more than a few places online and by Markus “Notch” Persson (the creator of Minecraft)

…Porter finally did the right, grown-up thing, retracted his tweets and was pretty straightforward with the mea culpas:


That was last week. This week’s Dan Porter story is quite different, and it’s pretty well summarized in the article’s title: Before OMGPOP Sold For $210 Million, The CEO Hired Back Everyone He Laid Off And Made Sure They Cashed In.

The story comes from an anonymous tipster that Business Insider claims is an “unimpeachable, first-hand source with knowledge of the situation”. Among other things, this person says:

[Porter] was literally negotiating the deal and jamming the re-hires back into payroll to make sure they were covered with hours remaining in the close.  Their options kept vesting and they benefitted from the sale.

Porter didn’t have to do it. It was just the mensch thing to do.

There was one guy who used to work for OMGPOP who was facing a deadline on whether or not to exercises his options. He couldn’t decide, and Porter didn’t want him to lose out, so he hired him as a contractor to extend his vesting as well. He made money too.

Every single employee got something from the deal, even new employees who hadn’t reached their cliff. Porter made sure it happened.

So Which is He, Goofus or Gallant?

Let this be a lesson (or reminder) that it’s all too easy to reduce someone to a one-dimensional caricature when you have only a handful of facts. Porter was easy to demonize: he’s a “suit” who unfairly called out a developer (if you’re a developer who hasn’t been screwed over by some stuffed shirt, you haven’t been in the industry long enough), and he’d just sold his company to Zynga, a company that’s done some terrible, unforgivable things to games and gaming (more on this in a later article).

Diametrically opposed as they may seem, Dan Porter’s actions last week and this week are two sides of the same coin: loyalty is something he values greatly. To Porter, Pierce’s refusal to join Zynga and writing that article explaining why (in which he called Zynga “evil” and described their practices as making things worse for the whole industry — and he’s got a point there) were a slap in the face and acts of disloyalty, if not outright betrayal. People flip out when the values they hold most dear are violated, and that’s pretty much what happened. Porter’s tweets in anger were petty and inexcusable, but they’re also short actions made in a flash of anger, off-the-cuff acts that probably took no longer than a minute or two, with no time for sober second thought.

Let me reiterate: it was a dick move. But it was an act of a moment.

On the other hand, rehiring laid-off employees just so they could get a piece of the acquisition action was also about loyalty. It was a longer, more deliberate process than those tweets made in anger. It’s not something you can do on a whim, especially when you consider that such an action actually reduced shareholder value. There were probably other C-level execs and possibly even a board of directors at OMGPOP to sell on the idea, and it’s likely that someone who didn’t truly believe in the cause would’ve simply given up or said “too bad; them’s the breaks”. This was an action that would’ve taken days, if not weeks, and there were probably plenty of opportunities to back out honourably.

This was a CEO action so good that it’s almost shocking in this day and age, and it couldn’t be anything but premeditated. You can’t do this sort of thing on a whim.

The timing of this story — it broke on the Monday the week after a lot of negative publicity — should raise our suspicions, but rehiring laid off employees so they can share in the wealth isn’t a cheap PR move, especially if you consider that it happened before his misstep. At most, I will simply say that if Porter got a PR company to make sure that this story got out, he’d better be paying them generously.

So which is he? Barring a revelation next week that he eats live kittens, I’d have to go with “Gallant”, with a moment of “Goofus”. All things considered, that’s pretty good.

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