The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that they have acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex from owners Michael O’Dell and David Slan respectively, and they will be combining the two eSports’ leading franchises under the Team Dignitas banner.
The combined organizations will create a powerhouse competitor in the booming business of eSports; bringing under one roof Team Apex’s wildly popular League of Legends team with other standout games including Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Smite. This marks the first time an ownership group of a North American sports franchise has acquired an eSports team; the group will utilize their business expertise and vast resources to bring infrastructure and alignment to position these eSports teams for future growth. The Sixers intend to manage the day-to-day operations of Team Dignitas, sharing best practices in sponsorship, sales, branding, digital marketing, merchandising, publicity and more; as well as devote resources to player recruitment, development and wellness.
Respected gaming industry veteran Greg Richardson will serve as Chairman of the new Team Dignitas. ESports luminary Michael O’Dell will lead the newly merged Team Dignitas’ team operations as President, alongside former Team Apex General Manager Michael Slan, who has been named Vice President and General Manager of the new team. The relationship between the Sixers, Team Dignitas and Team Apex was fostered by Tobias Sherman of WME-IMG, who represents Team Dignitas on new partner acquisitions. The Sixers acquired the eSports franchises in partnership with NextEquity Partners, a growth equity and venture capital investment firm. Terms from all transactions were not disclosed.
“The eSports industry is primed for incredible growth and we are thrilled to become an owner of such a storied franchise as Team Dignitas. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games. We see our entrance into eSports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in eSports as a whole,” said Philadelphia 76ers Managing General Partner Josh Harris.
“We are excited to become leaders in making the future of eSports even brighter,” said Philadelphia 76ers Co-Managing Partner David Blitzer. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with such an experienced and respected group of entrepreneurs to provide Team Dignitas with the resources it needs to join the ranks of elite competitors. Adding eSports to our portfolio will provide us with many new ways to extend and strengthen our existing sports brands and grow championship caliber franchises.”
“The attractiveness of this deal is as much about the people as it is the opportunity,” said Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil. “Bringing together gaming industry luminaries including Greg Richardson, Michael O’Dell and David and Michael Slan puts us on track to build the most respected and dominant franchise in the eSports space, spur fan engagement and reimagine corporate sponsorship to create a vibrant, global e-arena where the greatest players in the world aspire to compete.”
“We intend to build a fan-first team that aspires for excellence in all aspects of the business from attracting premier playing talent to building out merchandising, sponsorships and broadcast rights,” said Greg Richardson, Chairman of Team Dignitas. “The eSports market was started and built by its players and fans, creating one of the most vibrant and passionate communities anywhere. Dignitas embraces the unique origins of eSports and looks forward to working closely with its community to take the industry to the next level.”
“This is a landmark day in eSports history and for this franchise,” said Michael O’Dell, General Manager of Team Dignitas. “Entering into a partnership with such a strong organization will give us an undeniable advantage in attracting the world’s best players and an opportunity to compete at the highest level. Our connection to the legendary Philadelphia 76ers brand and business organization will be a differentiating factor for Team Dignitas as we enter the next phase of our development.”
“This transaction marks a pivotal moment in the development of the eSports industry,” said Tobias Sherman, Global Head of eSports, WME | IMG. “All of us will benefit from the financial expertise and long-term vision of Josh Harris, David Blitzer and Scott O’Neil as well as the detailed eSports industry knowledge of Michael O’Dell as we seek to create a new model that melds the power of traditional professional sports with eSports.”
“I’m proud to be a part of this revolutionary project with two legendary organizations. I’m also excited to bring a new level of support and infrastructure to my current and future players. I feel that it will soon be a great time to be a Dignitas fan,” said Team Dignitas Vice President and General Manager Michael Slan.
This acquisition is another first for the Philadelphia 76ers who, in addition to selecting Ben Simmons as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, made international headlines in April 2016 when they signed StubHub as the first regular season jersey patch partner in North American professional sports history. Currently ranked No. 1 in the NBA in new season ticket sales, the Sixers are the only professional sports team in North America to own and wholly manage an innovation lab, the Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball. On Sept. 23, the Sixers opened the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex, the largest and most technologically advanced training complex in professional sports. At 125,000-square-feet, the two story training complex is home to two NBA regulation-size basketball courts, ten baskets, a 2,800-square-foot locker room, hydrotherapy room with a 40-foot lap pool and hydraulic training lift, organic player restaurant, and amenities designed for player health, wellness, communication and comfort.
About Team Dignitas
Team Dignitas is an international eSports team with one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the professional gaming industry. Managed by gaming industry veterans Greg Richardson as Chairman and President Michael O’Dell, Team Dignitas’ highly talented and dedicated international squad of players are recognized across the globe for tournament winning endeavors. Team Dignitas’ innovative and authentic brand position offers a premier opportunity for partners seeking a direct portal into the gaming and eSports market. Team Dignitas was originally formed in September 2003 with the merger of two Battlefield 1942 teams. In September 2016 the new Team Dignitas merged with League of Legends powerhouse Team Apex and was acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association. Team Dignitas joins a family of innovative and competitive holdings owned by an investor group led by Managing General Partner Josh Harris and Co-Managing Partner David Blitzer, which includes the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League, Crystal Palace of the Premier League and the Prudential Center, a 18,000 seat, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose arena in Newark, N.J.
About Greg Richardson
Greg Richardson is an investor, advisor and entrepreneur in the digital media space who founded game developer and publisher Rumble Entertainment. Prior to Rumble, Greg was a partner at Elevation Partners, a $1.8 billion private equity fund focused on digital media and served in a variety of senior executive roles within leading game companies including BioWare/Pandemic, Electronic Arts, Eidos Interactive and the 3DO Company.
About WME | IMG
WME | IMG is a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion operating in more than 30 countries. Named one of Fortune’s 25 Most Important Private Companies, WME | IMG specializes in talent representation and management; brand strategy, activation and licensing; media production, sales and distribution; and event management.
About Nextequity Partners
NextEquity Partners makes growth equity and other venture capital investments in innovative technology and digital media companies. NextEquity is led by an integrated team of investors and operators with extensive experience working with high growth, market leading new media and technology companies and serving as trusted advisors and close business partners to management. NextEquity’s leadership team includes Fred Anderson (former CFO of Apple and Co-Founder of Elevation Partners), Avie Tevanian (former Chief Software Technology Officer at Apple and Managing Director at Elevation Partners), and Adam Hopkins (a Managing Director of Elevation Partners). NextEquity draws upon its principals’ deep technology, operating and growth equity experience managing or investing in companies, such as Apple, Airbnb, Facebook, The RealReal and Yelp. For more information please visit www.nextequity.com.
About the Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the most storied franchises in the National Basketball Association, having won three World Championships, earning nine trips to The Finals and making 47 playoff appearances over 67 seasons. The team is owned by an investor group led by Managing General Partner Josh Harris.
Source: Press release