M&A Crystal Ball: Where Do We Go From Here?


Hemal Thaker
Goldman Sachs, Global Head of Gaming and Interactive Entertainment Investment Banking

Hemal is a Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Goldman, Sachs & Co, where he is a member of the Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) Group, and Global Head of Gaming & eSports Investment Banking.

Hemal has advised the world’s leading gaming, internet and interactive entertainment companies on a broad range of transactions including mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, private placements, debt financings and raid defense. Notable transactions include: Roblox’s $41.8B direct listing, ironSource’s $11.1B SPAC listing, ZeniMax’s $7.5B sale to Microsoft, Sumo Group’s $1.3B sale to Tencent, Unity’s $1.5B IPO, Glu Mobile’s $2.4B sale to Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive’s $1.0B bid for Codemasters, Playtika’s $1.9B IPO, Corsair Gaming’s $0.2B IPO, Skillz’s $3.5B SPAC listing, Zynga’s $1.7B convertible note offerings, Embracer Group’s $1.7B equity raises, Paradox Interactive’s $0.1B equity raise, and over $6.0B in debt financing for Netflix, among others.

He joined Goldman in 2013 in the firm’s UK M&A Group, prior to assuming various roles in the US Internet, Media & Entertainment Groups. Hemal earned a MEng degree in Materials Science, Economics & Management from University of Oxford.

Affan Butt
Aream & Co., Founding Partner
Chris Petrovic
FunPlus, Chief Business Officer

Chris is a games, technology, and interactive entertainment veteran, with over 20 years of global experience in these sectors.

He currently serves as Chief Business Officer and Board Member of FunPlus, a leading mobile game developer and publisher headquartered in Switzerland. With over 1,900 employees globally and operations in the United States, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Japan and China, the group has continuously had its games rank in the top 50 highest grossing revenue games globally across Apple’s AppStore and Google Play. Game titles King of Avalon, Guns of Glory and State of Survival have been ranked as the #1 game in 70 countries. In his current role, Chris is responsible for managing the strategic, business, and creative operations of the company, with a primary focus on the Western market.

Prior to joining FunPlus, Chris served as SVP and Head of Corporate Strategy, M&A and Business Development for Zynga, a leading developer of the world's most popular mobile games that are played by millions of customers worldwide. Chris was responsible for helping drive the company’s turnaround and resurgence through strategic M&A, partnerships and market expansion efforts. Chris has deployed over $3 billion in capital during his time at Zynga for the acquisitions of Rollic Games, Peak Games, Small Giant Games, Gram Games, Harpan and Puzzle Social. He has also secured IP licensing partnerships with Disney (Star Wars), Warner Brothers (Harry Potter), NBC/Universal (Fast & Furious), HBO (Game of Thrones) and World Poker Tour and was responsible for the company’s Asia market strategy.

Prior to joining Zynga, Chris served as SVP and Head of Corporate Strategy & Development at Kabam, another leading mobile gaming company. During his time at Kabam, he led Kabam's international growth strategy efforts, with a particular focus on Asia, and was also responsible for a number of key IP licensing deals with Disney/LucasFilm (Star Wars), Marvel, Hasbro (Transformers), NBC/Universal (Fast & Furious), Warner Brothers (Lord of the Rings) and Lionsgate (Hunger Games). In addition, Chris oversaw Kabam's M&A activity as well as its 3rd party publishing business, which was sold to Chinese publisher Gaea Mobile.

Prior to Kabam, Chris served as the global GM of GameStop Digital Ventures, the digital strategy, corporate development and incubation arm for GameStop, the world’s largest provider of video game products and services. As a member of the company's senior management team, Chris served as the principal leader of GameStop's global digital strategy and was responsible for building on the company's ongoing efforts to integrate digital initiatives and business lines into the company's multi-channel strategy, as well as overseeing the development and execution of new organic growth and product development, acquisitions, strategic partnerships and investments. As a result of these efforts, digital revenues grew from $100MM to over $600MM during Petrovic’s tenure.

Prior to joining GameStop, Chris held senior level digital positions at Playboy, AG Interactive (a division of American Greetings), drkoop.com and theglobe.com. He began his career in the late 90’s as an entrepreneur, serving as the CEO of Internet start-up BannerGreetings.com. From there he went on to become COO of Buzztone.com, a leading interactive marketing agency, before joining Prime Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm based in Santa Monica, California.

Jenna Hardy
Gearbox, CFO

As Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Jenna Hardy leads all of Gearbox Entertainment’s funding strategies and financial planning, including accounting, auditing, and corporate finance. A member of Gearbox’s Executive Team, she joined the studio in 2016 after serving two decades at Warner Bros. and Disney. In 2021, Ms. Hardy oversaw the financial components of Gearbox’s $1.3 billion acquisition by the Sweden-based Embracer Group. This was one of the largest mergers in video game industry history. Jenna also pioneered Gearbox’s tracking of value creation through the introduction and implementation of Gearbox’s enterprise accounting system, which she spearheaded both domestically and internationally. This has enabled Gearbox to improve forecasting, cut costs, manage cash flow, and enhance its ROI. Under Ms. Hardy’s leadership, Gearbox can now pursue opportunities to finance and expand the company’s business strategies in fulfillment of its mission. Hardy, a sought-after public speaker and prominent entertainment industry executive, also serves on the Media Financial Management Association’s Board of Directors. Jenna, who is conversant in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, earned her MBA from Rice University and a BS in Languages and Linguistics from Georgetown University. Hardy also completed a program studying at the internationally recognized emlyon Business School in France.

This panel is composed of seasoned experts, who have all participated in the recent boom of game industry mergers and acquisitions. Gain insights into the trends expected to drive the space in the coming years, including how transmedia, the metaverse, and blockchain are shaping the ever-evolving landscape.