King Digital Entertainment's stock is set to be valued at up to $7.6bn when it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as investors show a renewed appetite for technology firms.
Shares in the company behind the wildly popular smartphone game Candy Crush will fluctuate wildly when they begin trading, but what's clear is that King's biggest shareholders are suddenly very rich. Based on the expected float price of up to $24 a share, here is what the shareholders are worth:
Melvyn Morris, chairman, estimated shareholding value $875m (£530m)
A self-made millionaire, Morris has chaired King since 2003. He left school at 16 and by 20 was earning a living as a management consultant. He worked in the US but returned to Derby, his home town, and started a handful of businesses including a hardwood flooring company, a Spanish property group, and a dating agency. Morris hit upon the idea of transferring his matchmaking skills to internet dating and the venture took off. When uDate was sold in 2002, it was the second-largest dating site in the world. Morris netted £20m and spent part of the money buying a stake in his beloved Derby County football club and part of it establishing King.
Riccardo Zacconi, chief executive, $745m
King's urbane Italian chief executive was born in Rome, where he studied economics, and started his career at Boston Consulting. He was lured into digital business during the dotcom boom, and ran the German unit of a Swedish web portal called Spray, which failed to make it to the stockmarket before the bubble burst. Zacconi moved to the UK in 2001 to look for digital investments, and by 2002 had been persuaded to join one of Europe's first online matchmakers, uDate. Soon after, the company was sold for $150m, and merged with Match.com. With colleagues from Spray, he finally launched King, and persuaded some of uDate's backers, including Melvyn Morris and Toby Rowland, to join the new venture. Spray missed its window to make it rich after delaying its IPO by a month, and had to be sold to Lycos instead. Zacconi's timing looks better with King.
Sebastian Knutsson, chief creative officer, $422m
One of King's founders, Knutsson is the company's creative mastermind. He recently claimed to have designed 10 of King's 15 worst games – the company has made 180 so far – but it was from his Stockholm studio that the mega-hit Candy Crush emerged. A keen gamer himself, his vivid designs are inspired by the multicoloured, flashing, bleeping arcade games of the last century, from Pac-Man to Space Invaders and Tetris. But he also has a business brain, thanks to a BA in cost-analysis and finance from the Stockholm School of Economics, and comes from a family of entrepreneurs – his parents ran a denim brand and retail chain, and his sister has her own clothing company. Knutsson co-founded Spray, the internet portal at which he met Zacconi.
Lars Markgren, Sweden general manager, $217m
Stockholm-based Markgren worked at the European internet portal Spray, along with many of King's founders, before moving into gaming. He manages the pivotal Swedish operations and balances work with a passion for pike fishing.
Stephane Kurgan, Belgian chief operating officer, $179m
King's Belgian chief operating officer holds an MBA from France's prestigious Insead, and came to King from data-centre management business Tideway.
Patrik Stymne, chief systems architect, $169m
Stymne is not on the board but he is named as a co-founder. One of the technical brains behind King, he designed the company's IT system, having previously worked alongside co-founder Knutsson at the early internet search engine and portal Lycos, the digital advertising agency Razorfish and Spray, the Swedish-owned portal.
Thomas Hartwig, chief technology officer, $152m
Another co-founder, Hartwig is King's technology wizard and brains behind its data strategy, harvesting information from the 1.4bn game plays a day to hone each product from its testing phase on the King.com website through to its launch as a standalone smartphone app. Hartwig is based in the Stockholm, but he places data scientists in each of the small, typically 10-strong teams developing new King games, collating user experience to decide, for example, how difficult to make each successive level. Like his co-founders, Hartwig cut his teeth at the Swedish internet portal Spray.
Gerhard Florin, non-executive director, $27m
Having joined the board during the hard times in 2010, Florin has stuck around long enough to reap the benefits. Now a full-time non-executive director, he spent 14 years in senior roles at Electronic Arts, the world's third-largest gaming company and maker of the Fifa football games and sci-fi shooter Titanfall.
Apax Partners, investor, $3.46bn
King was one of the last venture capital investments made by Apax, which now focuses on taking more mature companies private. It is also the British buyout firm's most successful bet to date. Apax, whose holdings include the fashion chain New Look, the Orange mobile network in Switzerland and a trade publishing joint venture with the Guardian's parent company, injected about $36m in 2005, and its 48% stake is now worth almost 100 times that.
Index Ventures, investor, $600m
Index is a legend in technology venture capital, having backed Facebook and Skype, as well as British successes such as the clothing retailer Asos, and Moshi Monsters maker Mind Candy. Index invested alongside Apax in 2005, putting in an estimated $7m.
Toby Rowland, founder, $0
Toby Rowland co-founded King with Morris and Zacconi, and was co-chief executive until 2008, but he sold his shares in 2011, just months before the company launched its first hit Facebook game. He is married to the author and Vogue journalist Plum Sykes, and his father was the mining tycoon Tiny Rowland, who once owned the Observer and House of Fraser department stores. He was persuaded by Morris to move to Derby and become marketing director of their previous venture, uDate. He invested and shared in the spoils when the matchmaking site was sold for $150m in 2002, using the proceeds to set up King. Despite backing King for eight years, like the founding Beatles member Pete Best, Rowland left too early to share in its success. His 40m shares were sold back to King for a mere $3m, according to data from PrivCo. Had Rowland stayed in, he would have been King's largest individual shareholder today, with a stake worth up to $966m.
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