Last week, three major events happened with traditional sports investors and North American esports. Magic Johnson and co-owners of the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards purchased a majority interest in Team Liquid. Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan increased his stake in Immortals. But the event that kicked it all off was the purchase and merger of esports brands Apex Gaming and Team Dignitas by the Philadelphia 76ers.
With the acquisition, the 76ers become the first North American sports franchise to invest in the space. Many partial or majority owners of teams have made their own personal investment, but for the 76ers to attach themselves to a team was a move we’d only previously seen overseas (with organizations like FC Schalke 04 in Germany, Valencia CF in Spain or Beşiktaş in Turkey).
The team will compete as Team Dignitas across multiple titles, including League of Legends, using Apex’s LCS spot. The Sixers will manage day-to-day operations, including helping with “sponsorship, sales, branding, digital marketing, merchandising, publicity and more; as well as devote resources to player recruitment, development and wellness.”
The Rift Herald spoke to 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil after the announcement via e-mail.
"The Philadelphia 76ers is an organization with a drive to innovate and lead the industry,” O’Neil said. “Our ownership, led by Josh Harris and David Blitzer saw this as an opportunity for us to have a seat at the table during this important period of rapid growth in the esports industry.”
O’Neil believes the 76ers can provide what Team Dignitas needs to take the franchise to the next level.
“We are entering this business because we believe we can be very successful,” he said. “We are looking forward to working with our partners; the leagues, the publishers, the broadcasters and our fellow team owners, to help grow this nascent industry and be a part of its success story.
"We manage professional sports teams at a very high level. We believe we can use this experience to add incredible value to this emerging industry; in discussions surrounding partnerships, branding, franchising, broadcast rights, player recruitment and development and more.”
Greg Richardson will serve as Chairman of the new Team Dignitas. Current Team Dignitas General Manager Michael O’Dell will lead team operations, along with Team Apex General Manager Michael Slan.
"The Philadelphia 76ers are committed to making Team Dignitas one of the most dominant and competitive franchises in the world,” he said. “We have the resources to attract the best playing talent from around the globe and provide our players with unparalleled support in training and development."
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.