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Penn Entertainment brings in former Disney executive LaBerge as CTO

| By Robert Fletcher
Penn Entertainment has announced the appointment of Aaron LaBerge, formerly a president at The Walt Disney Company, as its new chief technology officer.
Penn CTO LaBerge

LaBerge will take on the CTO role at Penn Entertainment on 1 July. He will report directly to chief executive and president Jay Snowden.

As CTO, LaBerge will be responsible for driving the technology strategy and execution for Penn. He will lead a multinational team of technologists and also serve as the key business leader for Penn Interactive.

LaBerge joins Penn after almost six years with The Walt Disney Company. Here, he was most recently president and CTO of Disney Entertainment and ESPN. He was also president and CTO for Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.

Prior to this, LaBerge worked at ESPN for six years, again serving in several senior technology roles. These included four years as executive vice-president and CTO.

Earlier in his career, LaBerge co-founded and served as CEO of software business Fanzter. This was after a previous spell at ESPN, when he spent over five years as senior vice-president of technology and product development. 

In addition, he spent time working at the Walt Disney Internet Group, Starwave Corporation and Renaissance Interactive. 

LaBerge to support Penn with ESPN Bet expansion

A key part of LaBerge’s new role at Penn will be to work on the ongoing rollout of the ESPN Bet brand in the US.

ESPN Bet is the product of Penn’s $1.5bn (£1.22bn/€1.41bn) partnership with Disney’s ESPN, the largest sports media brand in the US. 

ESPN elected to move into sports betting last August striking up a deal with Penn. Under this agreement, Penn operates ESPN Bet while ESPN promotes the app across its online and broadcast platforms.

Incidentally, ESPN Bet is a rebrand of existing sports betting app, Barstool Sportsbook. Penn said it sold Barstool Sports back to its founder Dave Portnoy for $1 in August last year.

ESPN Bet officially went live across 17 states in the US in November. It has since moved to extend this reach, when in February it agreed to acquire Wynn Interactive’s New York sports betting licences. This clears the way for Penn to launch ESPN Bet in the state later this year.

“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.”

CEO Snowden added: “We are thrilled to have someone of Aaron’s calibre join our Penn executive team. Having overseen a global organisation 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 our entire executive team. He will continue growing our position as a leader in online gaming, sports betting and digital sports media.”

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