As we reported earlier today, Big Fish Games announced that its founder, Paul Thelen, would be returning to the role of CEO and president of the Seattle-based casual games company, replacing Jeremy Lewis in those roles.
Lewis has been at the company for six years. He’ll remain on the company’s board of directors. The shift away from day-to-day duties will free him up to pursue new opportunities, but he hasn’t yet said what he plans to do next. We’re hearing he has some ideas but hasn’t yet made any decisions.
For more background, we got ahold of the memo that Lewis sent to Big Fish employees explaining his decision. Here’s the full text.
Today is an important day for me and my family, my talented friends and colleagues at Big Fish, and for our burgeoning marketplace of partners and customers. Roughly six years ago I joined our Founder, Paul Thelen, as his partner in building Big Fish. Since then we’ve grown the company organically through several life stages and emerged as a leading digital brand with strong momentum and huge continued potential. This is a natural point in our company’s progression for me to pass the responsibilities as President and CEO back to Paul, who at this stage is best suited to lead us forward. He will bring his characteristic entrepreneurial drive and creativity to the forefront. I will continue to support Big Fish as a member of the Company’s Board of Directors.
Back in 2002 Paul bootstrapped Big Fish as a one person game development studio. He put the company on the map with his hit game, Mahjong Towers. A year later he launched the Big Fish Marketplace, a data and analytics driven web platform now providing millions of consumers premium casual games developed by the company’s hundreds of development partners.
In 2006 Paul recruited me from my Managing Director post at Goldman Sachs to be his President and COO. In 2008 he promoted me to CEO. That same year we closed an $83MM financing and with our new partners expanded Big Fish’s foot print to several new countries and extended our marketplace to mobile. In 2010 we surpassed one billion consumer downloads on PC and Mac and in 2011 we emerged as a top 10 publisher on iPad. Also in 2011 we launched internal R&D for Big Fish’s Universal Cloud Gaming Service that will come to life in 2012. To date in 2012 we’ve achieved several record breaking $1MM+ revenue days on our PC and Mac platform and introduced our first free-to-play virtual goods games on iPad and iPhone. Further to our long term mobile strategy we acquired Self Aware Games, the leading free-to-play mobile/social casino platform. Each year since our founding we have driven substantial revenue growth and we are on track for another excellent year in 2012. You have a lot to proud of!
Looking ahead into 2012 there is so much to anticipate, including the commercial launch of our Universal Cloud Gaming Service, the expansion of our PC, Mac and Mobile marketplaces to offer free-to-play games, and the extension of our reach into Facebook starting with the category leading Ace Casino platform.
Reflecting on my time working, learning, and building to scale with all of you during these last several years, what I’m most grateful for is your commitment to Big Fish’s well-defined, strong culture and values. The dynamic culture you have authored will continue to serve as a compass, guiding your judgments and leading to your future achievements. Your core values — Customer Goodness, Focus, Passion, and Integrity — will continue empowering you to adapt, compete, and thrive.
Please join me in wishing Paul the very best as he stewards the company he founded into its very bright future.
With gratitude and warmest regards to all of you, carry on!
UPDATE: In a follow-up email to GeekWire, Lewis said that the decision was made jointly by the executive team at Big Fish.
“This was our decision as a company — as company’s grow and reach different life stages they require and benefit from different leadership. At Big Fish we associate change with gain, and Paul and I have always walked that talk. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with Paul when I joined him six years ago, the team and business are strong and as I said in my memo to employees Paul is best suited to lead Big Fish ahead. This is about us doing what makes sense for the company and all of its stakeholders.”
In terms of what’s next, Lewis said that he plans to spend more time with his family. But, over time, he didn’t rule out another opportunity.
“I love building, complex challenges, and being a part of high performance teams bound by common mission and values,” he said. ”This attracted me Big Fish in 2006, and I imagine what I do next will share some of these qualities.”