Jeff Karp to join Big Fish Gaming as managing director and president
It has been announced that former Electronic Arts and Zynga executive Jeff Karp will join Big Fish Games as its managing director and president, where he will take over from Jeff Goldstein, Aristocrat’s chief digital officer and chief strategy officer who was overseeing Big Fish before Karp was brought on board. Karp will oversee the games company under its second corporate parent in four years.
Jeff Karp will replace former CEO and founder Paul Thelan who left the company following the $990 million acquisition by Australia’s Aristocrat Technologies in January. Thelan had also overseen the sale of the company to Churchill Downs for $885 million in 2014.
Karp has more than 15 years of experience in the video games industry. He spent more than 10 years at game giant EA in a variety of positions, most notably as the executive vice president of EA’s Play Label. There, he oversaw recognizable franchises like The Sims and EA Sports.
“I am honored to be working with such a creative and talented group, who are focused on enhancing life through exceptional play,” Karp said in a news release announcing his appointment. “Big Fish is a content-rich company and its employees are passionate about making great games that bring joy and fun to millions of players around the world.”
In his new role, the company says Karp will oversee the company’s continued growth and manage its portfolio of games, including Big Fish Casino, Cooking Craze, and Gummy Drop.
“Jeff’s expertise in growing games into global entertainment franchises is unsurpassed,” said Aristocrat’s Goldstein in a news release. “His proven track record and deep experience in the games industry make him the ideal person to drive Big Fish’s growth strategy, and ensure the business delivers its full potential.”
The market for casino-based online video games was dealt a blow in March, when a federal appeals court ruled that the Big Fish Casino constituted illegal online gambling. The ruling, currently under appeal, also has repercussions for other casino games that use a similar virtual currency system.
Thelen, a former RealNetworks executive, founded Big Fish Games in Seattle in 2002. Big Fish Games in 2017 posted $466 million in net revenue and $80.3 million in adjusted earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortization, according to financial statements from publicly held Churchill Downs. That was down from $486.2 million in revenue and $82.2 million in EBIDTA in 2016.
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