One of the oldest names in professional esports, Team Dignitas, have announced a takeover by NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Part of this deal includes a buy-out of the organisation Apex, who currently have a team in League of Legends’ LCS after they were promoted at the end of the summer split.
This is the first time that the entirety of a North American sports team has bought into an esports team, after teams in Europe, Brazil and Turkey have already done the same. However it’s not the first time that the NBA has gotten involved in esports, after two of the co-owners from the Sacramento Kings NBA Franchise founded NRG eSports and former Basketball player Rick Fox founded Echo Fox.
Michael O’Dell, the President of Team Dignitas, said of the acquisition: “This is a landmark day in eSports history and for this franchise. Entering into a partnership with such a strong organization will give us an undeniable advantage in attracting the world’s best players and an opportunity to compete at the highest level. Our connection to the legendary Philadelphia 76ers brand and business organization will be a differentiating factor for Team Dignitas as we enter the next phase of our development.”
The 76ers are one of NBA’s oldest and most prestigious franchises, with players like Charles Barkley, Billy Cunningham and Moses Malone featuring for them over history. Recently, their on-pitch performance has been lacking – failing to reach the play-offs since 2011/12. Off the pitch, their ownership group headed by Josh Harris and David Blitzer has picked up ownership of the New Jersey Devils NHL Franchise and a stake in the Premier League side Crystal Palace. For their NBA franchise, they recently invested in a new 125,000 square-foot Training Complex, designed to be all their players need, and signed NBA’s first jersey sponsor in April this year.
This is a landmark day in eSports history and for this franchise
The acquisition is set to merge Team Dignitas and Apex, with them going under Dignitas’ name. The organisation is set to retain the previous owners of the organisations, with Michael O’Dell set to serve as the team’s president and Apex’s owner Michael Slan becoming Vice-President and General Manager. The organisation is set to be chaired by Greg Richardson, Executive Chairman at Rumble Entertainment and formerly held executive positions at leading gaming companies, like EA, BioWare and Eidos Interactive.
Joshua Harris, Managing Partner of the 76ers, said: “The eSports industry is primed for incredible growth and we are thrilled to become an owner of such a storied franchise as Team Dignitas. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games.
“We see our entrance into eSports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in eSports as a whole.”
The terms of the agreement, including the sums paid for the organisations, are being kept under wraps for the time being. Considering however that organisations similarly sized to Dignitas have been valued in the $5m – $15m (£3.87m – £11.6m) region, with Dignitas valued to the higher bracket of that, we’re talking about one of the largest acquisitions in esports’ history.
Esports Insider says: This is a big day in Esports as a major sporting team picks up a large organisation. With the backing of the Sixers, it’d be interesting to see how Dignitas grows their team through their marketing channels and how shirt sales could rise.