AEG invests in esports franchise Immortals, joining current stakeholders Lionsgate, Michael Milken and Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Steve Kaplan, among others.
As part of the investment, Immortals will host their Los Angeles-based tournaments and events at AEG’s sports and entertainment district, L.A. Live.
The Immortals investment marks the latest step in AEG’s eSports initiative. Last September, the company entered a long-term global partnership with ESL, the world’s largest eSports company, which enables ESL to utilize AEG’s global network of more than 120 clubs, theaters, arenas and stadiums for qualifying events, tournaments and world championships.
“AEG has engaged in the eSports space for several years now, having hosted tournaments on our L.A. Live campus and several other AEG venues,” said Todd Goldstein, chief revenue officer, AEG. “This specific conversation (about Immortals) started about eight weeks ago.
“We like the people, we like the concept and we’re big fans of the Immortals franchise. We like their future as well as the individual ownership group that exists.”
AEG invests in esports franchise and is a forward-thinking company, especially with its L.A. Live campus being known for being the best in entertainment and “we believe eSports is a growing enterprise that will have more and more of these physical locations that will host these various events,” he added.
Goldstein believes AEG can bring its expertise to play with their vast resources to make the L.A. Live home events shine.
“They have a team and a franchise and we’re going to review all the titles and we’re excited about the future for the team.”
Goldstein said that AEG invests in esports franchise is also “an enthusiastic minority partner” and at the moment AEG is not looking to buy into any other eSports teams.
“From a venues standpoint I think this is a unique piece of what venues can host and participate in over the course of the next decade,” he said. “It’s a very exciting space and we want to make it a great experience for everyone who comes to watch one of these events.”
Founded in 2015, Immortals competes worldwide before more than 200 million fans in global tournaments including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Overwatch and Super Smash Brothers.
More about how AEG invests in esports franchise
Noah Whinston, Immortals CEO, said he founded the company after finding out he was better at managing an eSports team than playing on one. “Before founding the team I was a casual fan with a knack for business,” said Whinston. “I was never close to this level player.”
Immortals has multiple teams comprised of 23 players. “Some teams have seven players; some have three,” he said. Currently some teams play two to three games a month and other teams are in a league with games followed by playoff games.
When we were thinking about ways to expand the Immortals brand we saw holding live events in the Los Angeles area crucial to our success, he said. “No one does live events better than AEG. L.A. Live is a beautiful campus and will offer us a lot of flexibility.”
“AEG has a unique set of skills and resources,” said Whinston. “Bringing them in was a no-brainer for us.”
The global eSports market generates more than $493 million in revenues with an audience of more than 115 million regular viewers. By 2020, the market is expected to grow to $1.5 billion in revenues.
AEG invests in esports franchise and joins a group led by Managing Director of Crosscut Ventures and Chairman of Immortals Clinton Foy and CEO Noah Whinston; Lionsgate and its President of Interactive Ventures & Games Peter Levin; former financier Michael Milken; co-founder of Oaktree Capital and co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies Steve Kaplan; Managing Director of March Capital Partners Gregory Milken; Third Wave entrepreneur Allen DeBevoise; Redpoint Ventures partner Brad Jones; former SVP and General Counsel at Activision Greg Deutsch; Machine Shop, the venture capital arm of the band Linkin Park; Upfront Ventures partner Greg Bettenelli; and former Honest Company CEO Brian Lee.
Lionsgate’s Levin, has held a stake in Immortals for about two years.
“I’ve been in and around competetive gaming for well over a decade,” said Levin. “What attracted me specifically to Immortals was the management team of Clinton Foy and Noah Whinston who are as strong an executive team as one could back. My experience as an investor is to back people, knowing that businesses need to maneuver as the marketplace matures. The quality of the investors attracted to the enterprise was also highly attractive.”
Levin said that after Kaplan and Milken and Lionsgate came aboard, which all had ties to how AEG invests in esports franchise, bringing in the company was a natural play. “If you are going to operate a geographically-focused and promotion- and venue-oriented business in Los Angeles, there is no better contemplative partner than AEG. What they have done with the L.A. Live footprint is nothing short of breathtaking.”
“We’re very excited to have them onboard,” he said. “AEG’s acumen in putting on events and bringing marketing partners to initiatives like Immortals will be invaluable going forward. Prior to them coming aboard we didn’t have that. It checks multiple boxes with a well-heeled partner in the marketplace we are routing.”
Levin said that “we are in the first or second at bat in terms of a nine-inning game” in the eSports industry and that “it’s going nowhere but up. This is not a fad. These numbers are wildly compelling. The demographics are extremely attractive.”
Whinston said that with having AEG invests in esports franchise, the team is done “fundraising,” but would look at any new investors that “bring us strategic value.”