Esports giants ESL Gaming-FACEIT set to merge


Esports ESL sold to Saudi Arabia Image: Global Esports News & ESL

ESL Gaming and FACEIT, two of esports’ biggest tournament organizers, have announced a merger set to be finalized in Q2 of 2022.

The ‘Esports Insider’ stated that the two companies had been purchased by Saudi Arabian Government-backed Savvy Gaming Group for a combined $1.5bn (~£1.1bn).

ESL Gaming is a German esports organizer and production company that produces video game competitions worldwide. ESL was the world’s largest esports company in 2015 and the oldest that is still operational. Based in Cologne, Germany, ESL has 11 offices and multiple international TV studios globally. ESL is the largest esports company to broadcast on Twitch.

FACEIT is an esports platform founded in London (UK) in 2012. The company has administered leagues for games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Rocket League, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Dota 2, and Team Fortress 2.

According to the official website of the newly-founded ESL FACEIT Group, the two entities will continue to coexist in the esports ecosystem. Craig Levine and Niccolo Maisto will be appointed as Co-CEOs of the new company, and ESL Co-Founder Ralf Reichert will move into a non-operational role as Executive Chairman.

The ‘Esports Insider’ further stated that the Savvy Gaming Group paid $1.05bn (~£780m) for ESL Gaming and is reported to have paid $500m (~£370m) for FACEIT. The Savvy Gaming Group is backed by the Saudi Arabian Government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The Fund recently purchased English Premier League football team Newcastle United (UK).

According to its website, the Savvy Gaming Group is a ‘long-term investor’ formed to drive the growth and development of esports and the wider games industry worldwide.

ESL Gaming was previously owned by the Swedish holding company Modern Times Group (MTG), which purchased a majority stake in ESL in 2015 for €78m. MTG increased its investment in ESL’s parent company Turtle Entertainment in 2018.

Averred ESL Gaming CEO Craig Levine, “Our mission remains unchanged: To create a world where everybody can be somebody. Our merger with FACEIT, along with the backing of Saving Gaming Group, will give us more knowhow, capabilities and resources than ever before to deliver on this vision. Whether you are competing or watching, doing so socially or at a professional level, every stage of the pathway will be improved through this merger.”

The ESL FACEIT Group also announced a number of details regarding the upcoming changes to the CS: GO competitive ecosystem, most notably the ESEA and FACEIT. It will aim to promote more stability for North American CS: GO through new incentives for professional teams, and support the development of local scenes and grassroots esports. The new company also says it will invest heavily in a path-to-pro for up-and-coming players.

Saudi Arabia has somewhat of a controversial history in esports. Tournament organizer BLAST and publisher Riot Games pulled out of a partnership with Saudi Arabian futuristic City development project NEOM in 2020 following community backlash over the country’s human rights record.

FACEIT CEO Niccolo Maisto put in, “In the past years, ESL and FACEIT had a significant positive impact for the growth of the esports industry, bringing a variety of propositions for players, teams, publishers, and developers. By uniting these complementary capabilities, and with the backing of SGG, we are taking a long-term approach to develop a more robust platform to better support the future of the whole competitive gaming ecosystem and generate more value for all its stakeholders in a sustainable way.”

The merger and acquisition comes close on the heels of technology giant Microsoft announcing the purchase of publisher Activision Blizzard (American video game holding company) for almost $69bn.

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