Nexon Names Mahoney CEO as Japan Gamemaker Seeks U.S. Growth

Nexon Co., the Japanese maker of online games including “MapleStory” and “Combat Arms,” named American Owen Mahoney chief executive officer as it seeks growth and acquisitions in the U.S. and other Western markets.

Mahoney, 47, currently chief financial officer, replaces Choi Seung Woo who is retiring, according to a statement from the Tokyo-based company. Nexon today reported a 4.4 billion yen ($43.1 million) net loss for the quarter ending December, compared with a 552 million yen profit a year ago.

The company is seeking to expand its user base as the industry transitions to customers playing free online games as well as traditional console titles. Mahoney, who joined Nexon from Electronic Arts Inc. in 2010, is set to take the post March 25, adding his name to a short list of non-Japanese running companies in the country.

“We want to build a bigger presence in the West than we have so far,” Mahoney said today by phone. “Obviously, I am a Westerner and was born and raised in San Francisco, and although I spent a lot of my career in Asia, in Japan, Korea and China, I really believe there is a huge opportunity in the West that is largely untapped.”

Nexon took stakes in four companies last year and acquired a fifth to help gain North American users. The company said in September it would make a cash equity investment in Shiver Entertainment founded by former Zynga Inc. Chief Operating Officer John Schappert.

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Revenue in the fourth quarter rose 12 percent to 34.5 billion yen, the company reported today. Operating income fell 96 percent to 327 million yen.

In September, the company agreed to buy Thingsoft, an online game development studio based in Seoul, South Korea, that helped develop the FIFA Online 1 title. In July, Nexon announced strategic investments in Redwood City, California-based Rumble Entertainment Inc. and Baltimore, Maryland-based SecretNewCo.

The buying spree isn’t over, Mahoney said today. It is the “best timing” for expansion in the West, he said, without identifying any targets.

As a non-Japanese chief, Mahoney travels a path trod by Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn and Howard Stringer, the former Sony Corp. president. In 2012, Craig Naylor resigned as CEO of Tokyo-based Nippon Sheet Glass Co., citing a clash with the board.

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