Mobile ad network Tapjoy announced today that it has appointed former Disney media executive Steve Wadsworth as its new chief executive and president. Mihir Shah is stepping down from his job in those roles.

In an email to VentureBeat, a Tapjoy spokesperson said Wadsworth is the permanent CEO and he was appointed now because the board “believes the company’s growth and scale has progressed to a point where a change in leadership and management experience is best suited for Tapjoy going forward. This change is being made to realize and capture the massive opportunity available to the company.”

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The rep also said Shah will not stay on the board.

Wadsworth is the former president of Disney Interactive Media Group and a current Tapjoy director. The change seems sudden, and it suggests that Shah’s departure was unexpected. We recently interviewed Shah when the company got into hot water with Apple over its use of promotional offers in web links embedded as HTML5 code in games and apps.

Wadsworth spent 17 years at Disney, where he rose to the head of the company’s digital media and gaming businesses. He ran that business for 11 years. He led the $700 million-plus acquisition of Playdom and then was replaced in his job by Playdom chief executive John Pleasants.

“Tapjoy sits in the epicenter of an incredibly exciting growth industry and is very well positioned to take advantage of future growth,” said Mark Leschly chair of  the Tapjoy board, in a statement on the news. “Tapjoy has scaled dramatically over the past two years, and we are very excited and fortunate to have someone with Steve’s management credentials and deep technology and entertainment industry expertise to lead Tapjoy through our next phase of growth.”

Behind the scenes, Tapjoy inserts ads into apps. Those ads are targeted at consumers who enjoy similar apps. If those individuals install the apps that are recommended in the ads, then the advertiser pays Tapjoy and the developer for the installation.

It works only because developers have so few good options for getting their apps in front of consumers. This business grew sales from $20 million in 2010 to more than $100 million in 2011, despite being tripped up when Apple banned incentivized downloads (which appeared to give people the motive to download apps they didn’t want to use). Still, Tapjoy is going strong, and its network of developers now has more than 100 million monthly active participants and has reached more than a billion mobile devices.

Leschly added, “Steve has had a unique opportunity to work closely with our senior management team since joining the board. He will ensure that this is a seamless transition for all of Tapjoy’s customers and employees as we continue to drive the growth and product innovation we are known for.”

And Leschly thanked Shah for “helping the company transition from its startup phase to a market leading growth company.”

Wadsworth said in a statement, “Tapjoy is a unique and compelling company whose innovation has created a robust model for mobile app discovery and monetization, serving the needs of publishers and advertisers. I’m honored to be part of the team.”

Shah did not offer a comment. Tapjoy’s investors are J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Rho Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, InterWest Partners and D.E. Shaw Ventures.