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PENN hires Disney streaming exec Aaron LaBerge to CTO role

LaBerge spent more than two decades in various technical and executive roles at Disney.

LaBerge spent more than two decades in various technical and executive roles at Disney.

Aaron LeBerge. (Courtesy photo)
Aaron LeBerge. (Courtesy photo)

PENN Entertainment has hired a former streaming executive away from the Walt Disney Company to serve as its new chief technology officer.

Aaron LeBerge spent more than two decades at Disney, where he most-recently served in the role of President and Chief Technology Officer for Disney Entertainment and ESPN.

At PENN, LeBerge will be responsible for overseeing the technical aspects of the company’s entertainment, casino gambling and sports betting businesses. He starts in the role in early July, subject to certain regulatory approvals, the company said in a statement.

“We are thrilled to have someone of Aaron’s caliber join our PENN executive team,” Jay Snowden, the President and CEO of PENN Entertainment, said on Monday. “Having overseen a global organization of thousands of engineers, product developers, designers, technologists, and data scientists that created some of the largest scale and most successful media properties in the world, there is no better candidate to lead our Technology and Interactive division into its future. I know Aaron is looking forward to working with Todd George, our head of operations, and our entire Executive Team to continue growing our position as a leader in online gaming, sports betting, and digital sports media.”

“I’m excited to join another talented team at PENN Interactive and lead our technology strategy,” LaBerge said. “PENN Entertainment is at the forefront of the fast-changing gaming and sports media industry. I plan to use my experience from Disney and ESPN to help make ESPN BET an essential piece of the sports fan experience. Together, we’ll push the limits and redefine how fans interact with sports and gaming.”

PENN Entertainment provided the following summary of LaBerge’s career and accomplishments at Disney:

Mr. LaBerge spent more than 20 years at The Walt Disney Company, in two stints separated by five and a half years as a technology entrepreneur. He was most recently President & Chief Technology Officer for Disney Entertainment and ESPN where he was responsible for driving all technology and product development in support of The Walt Disney Company’s two media divisions. In that role, he helped set the vision and strategic leadership for how Disney uses technology to enable storytelling and innovation, drive its business, and create unparalleled consumer experiences with entertainment and sports content.

Prior to his most recent role at the Walt Disney Company, Mr. LaBerge was Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at ESPN from 2015 to 2018. At ESPN he played an instrumental role in the growth of ESPN’s consumer-facing digital media products and services – leading many of ESPN’s most ambitious and challenging projects and helping establish ESPN’s position as the leader in digital sports and innovative sports technology development. He was a key architect in the design, development, and engineering of ESPN’s state-of-the-art facilities in Bristol, CT; Los Angeles, CA; Charlotte, NC; and Austin, TX, as well as data centers and infrastructure that connect those facilities around the world, as well as the technology design and development to support the launch of the multi-platform SEC Network.

Between 2007 and 2012, LaBerge was co-founder and CEO of Fanzter, Inc. – a venture-funded consumer software and digital product development company. At Fanzter, he directed all day-to-day operations and led the development and launch of a variety of consumer-focused internet and mobile products, ground-breaking social and commerce technologies and more.

A passionate engineer, technologist, innovator, and an avid sports fan, LaBerge is a native of Charleston, S.C. and earned his degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of South Carolina. A passionate engineer, technologist, innovator, and an avid sports fan, LaBerge is a native of Charleston, S.C. and earned his degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of South Carolina.

LaBerge becomes the latest top-level Disney executive to leave over the past two years, joining other former executives like ex-CEO Bob Chapek, streaming head Kevin Mayer and former Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy who have left Disney for other opportunities.

“We want to thank Aaron for the contributions he has made and the leadership he has provided at Disney over his 20 years,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in an internal memo on Monday, one that was also signed by Disney Entertainment co-Chairpersons Dana Walden and Alan Bergman.

Pitaro noted that LaBerge will be instrumental in progressing the partnership between PENN and ESPN that was announced last August, one that sees PENN operating ESPN’s sportsbook called ESPN BET.

“It is a silver lining that he will continue to help Disney and ESPN win, as he transitions to a role at PENN Entertainment, where he will be a key partner in the continued growth and success of ESPN BET,” Pitaro affirmed.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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