Big Fish lures Karp as new president

4 July 2018

Aristocrat has appointed Jeff Karp, the executive behind Farmville and Words With Friends, to lead its $900m (€755m) Big Fish social gaming division.

Karp, who becomes managing director and president, has previously held senior executive roles with leading video game companies including Electronic Arts, Zynga and GSN Games.

While Big Fish has a portfolio of successful games across the social casino, social gaming and premium paid games markets, including Big Fish Casino and Cooking Craze, Aristocrat is ambitious for the company it bought from Churchill Downs for around $900m in January.

Jeff Goldstein, Aristocrat’s chief strategy officer, said: “Jeff’s expertise in growing games into global entertainment franchises is unsurpassed.

“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.”

Karp was most recently the CEO of Sports Illustrated Play, a youth sports focused digital platform that attracted more than 17 million monthly users. He was instrumental in building multi-billion-dollar franchise games, including EA SPORTS, Words With Friends, Farmville and The Sims franchise.

He arrives at Big Fish six months after its surprise acquisition, in a move that made Aristocrat the world’s second biggest social casino firm with it having also bought Plarium in October for around $500m.

At the time, Adam Krejcik, analyst at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said: “The surprise announcement to acquire Big Fish for nearly $1bn combined with its recent acquisition of Plarium for $500m will transform Aristocrat’s digital business into a business that should generate in excess of $1.1bn in revenues and $250m in [EBITDA, or profit before taxes etc.] next year.”

Speaking about his appointment, Karp said: “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.”