In a move that further legitimizes the growing world of eSports, the Philadelphia 76ers are set to become the first major North American sports franchise to own their own eSports team.
The 76ers are expected to announce on Monday that they are acquiring Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming, two teams that specialize in League of Legends (although Dignitas also competes in other games as well). By owning both teams, the 76ers will have at least one team in the highly lucrative League of Legends Championship Series.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed, however other eSports teams have been sold for anywhere between $5 and $15 million. Scott O’Neil, CEO of the 76ers organization, said that although eSports are entirely new to the traditional sports league models, they were smart enough to see what an explosion of interest and revenue it has become.
76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said, “We were smart enough to know what we didn’t know,” so O’Neil brought on Greg Richardson, an executive who has had a career in consumer tech and video gaming and will oversee the project for the team.
“The market created itself and became a product that a quarter billion people are watching, and when they watch, they’re watching an hour and half a day,” Richardson said. “But at the same time, it’s an incredibly large, immature market that is somewhat of a Wild West.”
“We like to be agents of change, rather than sit and watch from the sidelines,” O’Neil said. “Our owners, Josh [Harris] and David [Blitzer], have big eyes, big vision and big appetite.”
The 76ers aren’t the only pro sports team to venture into eSports — German soccer team FC Schalke 04 also bought their way in recently. Former NBA players Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal also have ownership of various eSports teams.