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Has the acquisition of Playdom created a disgruntled workforce for Disney?

By on July 28, 2010

I was reading the TechCrunch report of Disney’s acquisition of Playdom and this comment leaped out at me:

“The sad truth is that 90% of employees got nothing immediately from this deal. 90% of Playdom employees joined the company less than a year ago.

Typically what happens in a giant acquisition like this is that employees, senior employees and relative new ones, those who joined the company less than a year ago, will get at least one year’s stock option vested, thus getting at least some carrots when the acquisition happens. No, this is not in this case.

And, that is MEAN. And, 90% of employees are NOT happy!

Did you hear this, Playdom execs?

Or recruiters will hear this – it’s great time to poach Playdom employees.

Playdom execs, and now DIMG President Steve Wadsworth – please revise the terms and give 90% of Playdom employees at least something, like one year accelerated vesting. Please.”

This is a genuine problem for Disney. I can understand why they didn’t accelerate the vesting on acquisition: for many employees, the stock options are an important part of their remuneration and their commitment to the company. Paying too much out too soon and employees might take their windfalls and run.

On the other hand, most employees want equity so that they can get rich when the company goes public or gets bought. Playdom no longer has that carrot to dangle in front of people. At best, employees will have had their options transferred into a Disney option scheme that vests in safe, sensible Disney stock over time, and that is not the kind of equity that excites people who join fast-growing start-ups.

Against a background of a massive dearth of social gaming skills – and very high salaries for those who do exist – this is a problem for Disney.

How they handle this issue will be a critical part of whether this acquisition works or goes horribly wrong.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: