ESForce, one of the largest esports companies has been sold to Russian internet giant Mail.Ru for $150 million (~£107.8m) according to ESPN reports.
ESForce continues to own SK Gaming and Virtus.Pro after relinquishing media rights to Natus Vincere recently. In addition, the company owns a broader portfolio of companies operating in esports including the tournament series EPICENTER, the sites CS:GO and Dota 2 Lounge, the Cybersport and RuHub media network as well as the recently built Yota Arena and even merchandising shop Fragstore.
The report suggests a whole fresh ownership change, although previous owners “USM” are amongst the biggest three shareholders in Mail.Ru. USM hold shares in the Mail.Ru group through a holding in MegaFon, and the three biggest shareholders in Mail.Ru are MegaFon, MIH and Tencent.
The other two significant investors in USM Holdings, are Russian billionaire businessman Andrei Skoch and part owner of Everton F.C Farhad Moshiri. The initial report from RNS suggests that investments in ESForce have amounted to around $60 million in total, yet the company still continues to return a negative EBITDA at $15 million, and revenue for 2017 is approximated for around $19 million – a growth of 150% year on year. The report also suggests that investors expect that the revenue of ESForce in 2018 will have year-on-year growth of 80% – 100% going forward.
Effectively, the deal seems to be a substantial investment into ESForce. One would suggest that it will not change an awful lot with the way the company operates and the question marks over multiple-team ownership in Virtus.pro and SK Gaming remain.
Due to the public nature of Mail.Ru and the filing obligations that come with the company, the esports audience will likely get a rare, more transparent look at a company’s financials as and when the annual report is released.
Esports Insider says: Big money move as ESForce is engulfed by an absolute giant in Mail.ru. It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything – changes after the investment as there’s still a lot of common factors.