Disney technology executive Aaron LaBerge to leave company for personal reasons

Business

The Walt Disney company logo is displayed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on Dec. 1, 2023.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Aaron LaBerge, the chief technology officer for Disney Entertainment and ESPN, is leaving the company, according to an internal memo.

LaBerge is taking a job as CTO of PENN Entertainment, which operates ESPN Bet, the sports media company’s licensed online sportsbook. He’ll be responsible for driving technology strategy as a top executive in the company’s interactive division. LaBerge is leaving for personal reasons related to his family and will stay on at Disney until June, the memo said.

LaBerge has been a key figure in developing Disney’s streaming services and, more recently, integrating advertising into Disney+. He’s also led efforts to unify Hulu and Disney+ within one streaming application, which debuted last month.

At ESPN, LaBerge has been a central figure behind the company’s streaming services, including ESPN+, the upcoming sports streaming application co-owned by Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox, and ESPN’s flagship streaming service that will launch in 2025.

His departure adds to a growing list of veteran Disney executives who have left the company in recent years. They include former CEO Bob Chapek, former head of streaming Kevin Mayer, ex-finance chief Christine McCarthy, former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, former Disney general counsel Alan Braverman, ex-head of communications Zenia Mucha, and former president of Walt Disney Pictures, Sean Bailey.

“We want to thank Aaron for the contributions he has made and the leadership he has provided at Disney over his 20 years,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro and Disney Entertainment co-Chairmen Dana Walden and Alan Bergman in an internal note to employees. “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 (and the rest of their Interactive business).”

According to his biography, LaBerge has been responsible for “helping set the vision and strategic leadership for how the Company uses technology to enable storytelling and innovation, drive its business, and create amazing consumer experiences with entertainment and sports content.”

A search for LaBerge’s successor is already underway, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked to remain anonymous because the transition plan is private. Chris Lawson, currently Disney’s executive vice president of content operations and one of LaBerge’s direct reports, will take over LaBerge’s job on an interim basis when he departs.

LaBerge first joined Disney in the late 1990s as part of the company’s takeover of Starwave, a Paul Allen-founded company that partnered with ESPN before Disney fully acquired it it in 1998.

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