Robert Kraft and Fred Wilpon Buy Into Overwatch League
The Overwatch League seems to be gaining some heavy traction. According to ESPN’s Jacob Wolf, Blizzard Entertainment has now reached an agreement with six owners, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, that want to participate in the developer’s upcoming Overwatch League.
Two More Slots Filled
Blizzard says that there will be teams located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai. NRG ESports (San Francisco) and Immortals (Los Angeles) had to pay $20 million just to buy-in. That amount will be paid over time. The prices paid by Kraft and Wilpon have not yet been disclosed, though one would imagine it’s in the $20 million range, as well.
Blizzard has said in the past that they would like to begin the Overwatch League in the third fiscal quarter of 2017, though there’s no telling if they are still on that timeline. They are continuing to attract suitors interested in acquiring a team.
Two of the four American city slots are to be owned by non-endemic esports owners. As you would expect, the Patriots’ parent company, Kraft Sports Group, has been guaranteed the Boston spot. Wilpon’s team snags the New York spot. The two spots in California are owned by esports teams (NRG and Immortals) that were founded by sports team owners and business moguls within the last two years.
NRG and Immortals
Immortals is owned by businessmen Noah Whinston and Clinton Foy, though much of the funding comes from Stephen Kaplan, who is the co-owner of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. Machine Shop Ventures, which is the venture capital fund owned by Linkin Park, and Lionsgate Entertainment also supply funding to Immortals.
NRG eSports was founded in 2015 by Sacramento Kings co-owners Mark Mastrov and Andrew Miller. Basketball Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal and former big league shortstops Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins also invested in the team last year.
There was previously concern over whether Blizzard would be able to even fill the vacant spots thanks to the hefty price tag that comes with it. In addition to the $20 million buy-in, Blizzard is not offering revenue sharing until 2021 and owners will owe Blizzard an additional 25 percent fee if the team is sold in the future. All of those factors had previously cooled interest, though it sounds as though Blizzard was still able to get some of the spots filled.
Just yesterday, it was announced that two major esports teams would no longer be participating in Overwatch, thanks in large part to the massive $20 million buy-in.
Overwatch, which was released last year, has gained over 30 million players worldwide as of this past April. China’s Overwatch Premier League and South Korea’s APEX are two of the bigger independently-operated Overwatch leagues on the planet. Blizzard is in the midst of hosting its own European and North American Contenders series prior to the beginning of the Overwatch League.
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