Evil Geniuses (EG) and Alliance have both announced that from December 12 they are completely independent player-owned teams, in a move that runs counter to the recent trend of external investment in esports teams.
The change took place after twitch.tv exited its investment in the teams over concerns that it could be seen as a potential conflict of interest.
Twitch became the owner of the teams after buying GoodGame in 2014. Now it wants to restore the teams to independence. Twitch COO Kevin Lin commented:
“Today, we’re pleased to fully realize that independence, as we announce that both Evil Geniuses and Alliance will become independent player-owned organizations. While they’ll still be streaming on Twitch and we’ll continue providing support services, both teams’ brands, player contracts, and futures are now in the hands of the players and player-selected management. They will have complete independence and we will work with them as we would any other esports team.”
Evil Geniuses player steps up to become CEO
Release – Evil Geniuses stakes independence, becoming player-owned organization
— Evil Geniuses (@EvilGeniuses) December 12, 2016
Peter “ppd” Dager is taking the helm as the CEO of EG. He was team captain when the team won the Dota 2 International in 2015, to take the $18 million prize pool.
“I’m happy to finally announce EG as its own independently operating esports brand. Five years ago I could not imagine my life being where it is at today, but here I am. I want to thank everyone from Twitch and those here at EG for believing in me as the leader to continue to build this company.”
Goodgame CEO Alex Garfield spent over a decade in charge of EG. He first became involved with the team after volunteering to write coverage of them. Garfield was a former CS:GO player. Dager paid him an individual tribute for his contribution.
“I want to give special thanks to Alex Garfield, who has been my mentor from the beginning when I joined EG in 2014. I looked up to all the things he had done and have been aspiring to one day be able to have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. Without him none of this would have been possible, EG and I are forever grateful.”
Alliance chooses Barge as COO
Very happy to finally announce what I've been working on for the past six months! https://t.co/eaqmoF6Ci9
— Erik Barge (@ErikBarge) December 12, 2016
The announcement on Alliance’s website provides the position of Chief Operating Officer to Erik Barge, and lists Joakim “Akke” Akterhall and Jonathan “Loda” Berg as co-owners.
Alliance was set up in Sweden in 2012 by Akterhall and Berg. The team immediately achieved success, winning the Aegis of Champions at The International in 2013.
“I’m very excited and happy to be a part of this new journey for Alliance with Jonathan and Akke, as well as the rest the owners. I also wanted to take this chance to properly thank Twitch for helping us through this process as well my former colleagues at GoodGame whom all was a pleasure to work with. I especially wanted to thank Colin DeShong for believing in me when I first started working for Alliance back in 2013.”
“I’m very pleased to see Twitch share our vision and helping us by giving us the tools to expand and evolve as an organization. With this divestment they have given majority control to us players from the old squad and a few others. With ongoing support and partnership with Twitch we are well equipped for the future.”
How long will the two teams remain independent?
One of the esports trends over the last six months has been the acquisition of top teams by external investors. Celebrities, private equity companies and traditional sports teams are among the owners of some of esports’ most famous brands.
The new esports investors have largely brought new and much needed skill sets to building esports team brands, and maximizing revenues from sponsorship and branded products.
Success in esports tournaments has been all that a team has needed to create a fan base. But as the industry is growing, the additional capabilities that external investors can bring are likely to become even more important.
Team ownership is becoming a serious business. Access to sufficient cash flow and investment capital is now a factor in whether teams can continue to compete at the highest level.
The thrill of being responsible for their own management will motivate EG and Alliance. However, it seems inevitable that potential new investors will soon be knocking at their doors.