Angels and Unicorns: Top esports investments, mergers and acquisitions of 2021

Photo credit: ESI

The best way to get a picture of an industry is by using numbers. For years almost all of the mainstream media mentions of the esports industry revolved around large prize pools from tournaments like The International, but as true as that may be, the industry offers more than just prize pools.

Any team that relies solely on tournament wins will not get very far, and a good business development strategy, network, and pitching process can arguably help a team more than a good squad. In fact, cash rules everything around us.

A number of esports organizations have risen in value in 2021, with one company even reaching a unicorn valuation of over $ 1 billion. FaZe Clan, the hypebeast branded esports organization, gaming brand, and content powerhouse is now worth more than a billion dollars. Imagine.

To show you how esports brands have grown at an unprecedented rate despite the pandemic, we’re bringing you Angels and Unicorns, a feature that brings together the largest investments, mergers and acquisitions in the esports world.

From stock market listings to multi-million dollar investments and financing rounds to expansions, mergers and acquisitions We had it all this year, despite the onslaught of COVID-19 variants that just don’t seem to be drying up.

Show us the money

While we all like to believe in unicorn and dishwasher tales, the cold and hard truth is that there isn’t much you can do without a steady stream of even colder and harder money. And since esports organizations are still mostly young companies with a more startup-oriented approach to business, investments are the be-all and end-all of esports.

Without a doubt, the biggest investment in an esports organization has been this $ 60 million (~ £ 45 million) investment in North American esports and gaming brand 100 Thieves. Today the company is valued at around € 460 million.

Photo credit: 100 thieves

North America was on the rise this year. In addition to 100Thieves, OverActive Media, based in Canada, is the parent company of the LEC champions MAD Lions and Toronto Ultra secured $ 40 million in funding this year, and Misfits Gaming Group raised an additional $ 35 million in 2021.

Across the pond, EXCEL and Fnatic, two UK-based esports organizations, have raised significant revenues this year. EXCEL has topped up its finances with € 20 million, and Fnatic continues strengthened his position with a $ 17 million round earlier this year.

These ratings can be attributed in part to a successful year of partnerships in esports – see ESI feature editor Jake Nordland’s breakdown of top esports partnerships and activations in 2021 for more.

Going public is the way to go

Most of the largest companies in the world are publicly traded. So it is a remarkable achievement for an eSports brand to go live on an exchange. This is very well known to the FaZe Clan, one of the top esports brands in the world, which alongside a valuation of 1 billion is now traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The new public company is called FaZe Holdings Inc.

Again, FaZe wasn’t the only company to decide that now is the time to go public in the US. OverActive Media was a little late for the party, but still started trading on the OTCQB Venture Market in November. Interestingly, OverActive Media started trading in Canada in July.

OverActive Media IncomePhoto credit: OverActive Media Group

Enthusiast Gaming, owner of eSports media company Upcomer, gaming website Destructoid and operator of a number of eSports teams – also began public trading on NASDAQ. Astralis, a Danish eSports organization known for its CS: GO team, first entered the NASDAQ First North Growth Denmark market last year, but then applied to the Best market exchange of the OTC Markets Group in the United States.

We have to mention Guild Esports, one of the first public esports companies, which this year expanded to the OTCQB, beginning the company’s journey in North America. Esports technologies too carried out an IPO this year – read for betting news ESI sub-editor Tom Daniels’ in-game article.

sport comes to sport

While we’ve seen our share of athletes get into esports in the past, either in content creation or in C-level roles, 2021 didn’t disappoint when it came to traditional sports players dipping their toes into esports. Esports is still a very interesting prospect for athletes who are familiar with building teams but want to secure a source of income alongside their careers. The most famous player for this is of course David Beckham, whose Guild Esports has become one of the first listed esports company in 2020.

Starting with a duo of Manchester United players, we saw Jesse Lingard starts his eSports commitment by founding JLINGZ Esports. Lingard’s new organization acquired UK-based Audacity Esports and will compete in Rainbow Six: Siege and FIFA. While the Manchester United striker was deciding on his esports plans in the summer, his teammate was David De Gea founded his own eSports organization a little bit later. De Gea’s organization, called Rebels Gaming, will compete in VALORANT, League of Legends, and Rainbow Six Siege.

Jesse Lingard SportsImage source: UKIN

All-star basketball player Kevin Durant also active in esports by investing in the New York esports organization with his agent Rich Kleiman. Back to Manchester United, the team’s former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Agent Jim Solbakken entered the eSports world by becoming the owner of the Norwegian esports company ULTI Agency.

Esports organizations are expanding

Growth means entering new markets and that sometimes means taking over existing players in those markets. This is exactly what ninjas in pajamas did in early 2021 by a. have announced Merger with ESV5 and entry into the LPL, the top division of the Chinese League of Legends. However, the Swedish brand wasn’t the only new team in the LPL – Chinese social media giant Weibo has also settled in esports, taking over the LPL spot from Suning.

In Europe, unfortunately, one of the most famous League of Legends teams, Schalke04 Esports, had to sell their place in the LEC due to financial difficulties. But losing one team is another’s gain, and Team BDS saw an opportunity. The Swiss organization successful got into League of Legends by buying the slot from Schalke04 for around 30 million euros.

In the North American market, one of its biggest names, Complexity Gaming, was Acquired by GameSquare Esports for $ 27 million (~ £ 20 million). GameSquare Esports is the parent company of esports agency Code Red Esports, and the acquisition made Complexity’s current group of owners the major shareholder in GameSquare Esports.

Photo credit: OpTic Gaming / Envy Gaming

In an interesting turn of events, two prominent North American organizations, OpTic Gaming and Envy Gaming have decided to merge and are working together on a new Call of Duty League franchise. This, in turn, left the CoD League short of one team – this position was recently filled by Oxygen Esports. Oxygen Esports will partner with The Kraft Group of New England Patriots, owners of Boston Uprising, to run the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League franchises.

If all this talk about numbers, euros, pounds and dollars is your itching for more esports information, check out our Heat Map article by Head of Multimedia Kerry Waananen for the hottest trends in esports this year.

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