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Disney Tech Exec LaBerge Joining Penn Entertainment as CTO

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Posted on: April 22, 2024, 03:47h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2024, 03:47h.

After a more than two-decade run holding high-level technology jobs at Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), Aaron LaBerge is joining Penn Entertainment (NASDAQ: PENN) as chief technology officer (CTO).

ESPN Bet Penn Entertainment sports betting
The ESPN Bet logo. Operator Penn Entertainment hired former Disney executive Aaron LaBerge as chief technology officer (CTO). (Image: ESPN Bet)

The regional casino operator made the announcement earlier today, though some media outlets reported LaBerge left Disney for unspecified personal reasons. In his role as Penn CTO, LaBerge will report directly to CEO and President Jay Snowden.

In his new role, Mr. LaBerge will be responsible for driving the technology strategy and execution for PENN, while leading the multinational team of technologists and serving as the key business leader for the company’s Interactive division,” according to a statement issued by Penn.

LaBerge joins Penn at a time when the interactive division, including the ESPN Bet sports wagering mobile application, is struggling to reach profitability and gain market share. Some analysts estimate ESPN Bet is on track to post a larger-than-expected first-quarter loss. Penn is slated to deliver results for that three-month period on Thursday, May 2.

LaBerge Could Be Smart Hire for Penn

Overall, LaBerge spent more than 20 years with Disney across two stints with the media and entertainment conglomerate.

Indicating that he could be a smart hire for Penn, LaBerge’s most recent role at his now former employer was as president and CTO for Disney Entertainment and ESPN. Last August, Penn agreed to pay $1.5 billion over 10 years to Disney for rights to use ESPN Bet branding on its sports wagering app. Disney was also granted $500 million in Penn equity warrants as part of that agreement.

In his most recent role at Disney, LaBerge “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,” according to the statement.

LaBerge served as executive vice president and CTO of ESPN from 2015 to 2018, overseeing the development and growth and of many of the network’s now highly popular consumer-facing digital content offerings.

LaBerge Could Be Vital in Driving ESPN Bet Growth

ESPN Bet debuted last November and while the app is outperforming predecessor Barstool Sportsbook in terms of market share, there’s still room for improvement, including on the technology front. That could be a sign that hiring LaBerge was a shrewd move by Penn.

The addition of LaBerge could be all the more pivotal for Penn at a time when some analysts believe ESPN Bet is trailing rivals when it comes to profit-generating parlays, which are heavily rooted in technology. LaBerge’s background suggests he could help ESPN Bet on that front.

“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,” added Penn in the press release.

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