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Arkadium has been a family company for over two decades. It still is, but it is now undergoing a transition to new management.
Kenny Rosenblatt, co-founder and chairman of Arkadium, will take over as CEO of the adult casual game maker from his wife and co-founder Jessica Rovello.
Rovello will become executive chairman of the New York company, which the husband-and-wife team founded in 2001. He will oversee quarterly board meetings, but will also discuss work outside of Arkadium, Rosenblatt told GamesBeat.
That’s a big change.
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“We’ve always been together, family and work,” Rosenblatt said. “We’ve worked side by side at our desks for over 20 years.”
This is not the first time when the duo has changed the main position. Seven years ago, Rovello became CEO while Rosenblatt became chairman, reversing the management order that had been in place since the company’s founding.
His tenure came during tumultuous times, and geopolitics played a major role. In the spring of 2014, when the crisis in Ukraine turned into a civil war, the Russian Federation invaded the Crimean Peninsula, a region of Ukraine, and annexed it to Russia. Arkadium had its largest game studio, an experienced mobile game development staff of over 100 people, in Simferopol, Crimea. Overnight it became Russian territory, with armed occupants knocking on doors and asking for identification.
Rovello and Rosenblatt had to decide what to do. Two thirds of the company’s employees were in the occupied territory.
At the end of 2014, the Obama administration announced sanctions, making it a crime for American companies to do business in Crimea. Rovello discovered that his studio was now an illegal business. Instead of shutting it down, he and Rosenblatt asked employees what they wanted. About half of them decided to continue working, and they wanted to be part of Russia. So they moved the studio across the Russian border near Sochi and reopened in a place where they weren’t subject to sanctions.
But only half of them went. So Rovello had to decide what Arkadium would focus on now that it only had half the number of developers it had before. He has decided to exit the company’s mobile games business. Instead, Arkadium focused on its core web business, which provides light casual games for websites such as newspapers and portals. It was an emotional ordeal, but Arcadium survived it.
At the time, Rovello did a lot of work to sort things out, and the pair changed job titles to reflect that. The company survived. During his tenure, Arkadium’s revenue and profits grew steadily year after year; the company has won numerous Best Workplaces awards, been named a Forbes Small Giant and appeared on the cover of Inc Magazine. Rovello also presided over the company’s share buyback from its VC investors.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, and the Russian division of the company was once again subjected to sanctions. This time, the company helped many of its employees leave Russia. It opened a large office in Lisbon, Portugal and moved many workers there. Only a couple remained in Russia, and eventually it closed the Russian studio altogether. Now the company operates remotely.
“The most selfless act an entrepreneur can do is to intentionally leave the company he founded.
to provide opportunities for others to grow,” Rosenblatt said. “Jess led us through two wars, a pandemic and disruption to our industry, and still leaves Arcadium in the strongest position it has ever been in, both financially and strategically. The management team, along with the systems and processes it has implemented, will help Arcadium thrive for years, if not decades, to come.”
“I have been honored to work with Arcadians from around the world for the past 20+ years, firstly,
its co-founder and then as CEO. Should work for any company, but especially a gaming company
fun Despite all the challenges the world threw at us, I had a great time,” Rovello said in a statement. “And I couldn’t be more excited to see Kenny, the executive team and the entire organization reach great new heights as they embark on this next chapter.”
Rovello and Rosenblatt started Arkadium in 2001, when they were both 26 years old. The couple, who have three children, are a real anomaly in the games industry, which is known for its stressful work environment, business models based on a male-dominated work culture.
“I can count on one hand the number of female CEOs who started a gaming company, grew it to over $100 million in enterprise value, made huge profits, and survived for over 20 years. Jess is truly a one in a billion entrepreneur,” said Rosenblatt.
This will be Rosenblatt’s second stint as CEO of Arkadium, and he said he’s looking forward to running it on his own for a change. Rosenblatt held the role from 2001 to 2015. He said his wife has done a great job running the company, and he believes she will eventually be ready to do bigger things.
Moving forward, Arkadium will continue to focus on the adult gamer and develop games that last
and delight their unique audience. The company operates games on Arkadium.com, as well as on iOS, Android and the websites of the world’s largest publishers and brands, including USA Today, AARP, The Washington Post and MSN.
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