Esports Movers and Shakers is Esports Insider’s monthly compilation of the biggest personnel moves in the esports industry.
January 2022 was unfortunatly dominated by layoffs. Riot Games, Microsoft Gaming, Twitch, Discord and more had major layoff rounds in January.
Meanwhile, there were several notable moves and departures by major esports companies. To read the full story, click the link in the corresponding title.
Software company Microsoft laid off 1,900 employees spread across the company’s gaming workforce, which includes recently-acquired Activision Blizzard and Xbox.
The layoffs were announced via an internal memo sent by Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. It has also been revealed that Blizzard president Mike Ybarra as well as Allen Adham, Blizzard’s Chief Design Officer, decided to leave the company.
Microsoft layoffs included ‘most’ of Activision Blizzard’s esports team, a source told VentureBeat. Other outlets reported a 83% cut to the company’s esports team. The layoffs represent around 8.6% of Microsoft’s total gaming workforce of around 22,000 people.
Game developer and esports company Riot Games underwent a round of layoffs that affected around 11% of its total workforce, with 530 global roles being terminated.
Riot said the reason for the layoffs is a shift in focus for the company, which results in shutting down its third-party publishing label Riot Forge and reducing the size of its Legends of Runeterra teams. Affected workers have been offered an extensive severance package.
Jonas Gundersen, COO of esports company NIP Group, announced that he was stepping down from his position.
Via a social media post, Gundersen noted that he wants to pursue another venture in 2024, but did not announce details regarding his new move just yet. Gundersen shared via social media that “the timing is right” to leave the well-known Swedish esports brand and “head for the next chapter” in his career.
Gundersen is a well-known face in esports, having played professionally in Counter-Strike under the nickname “calc” from 2002 to 2006. Since then his career spanned multiple industries. Gundersen founded startups, worked as a poker coach and recorded a music album. He previously worked at Danish esports organisation North Esports as COO before joining Ninjas in Pyjamas in 2020.
Bobby Kotick, controversial long-time CEO of Activision Blizzard, departed his position on December 29th, 2023.
The former boss of the company stayed on board until the end of 2023 to help with the transition of Activision Blizzard’s acquisition by Microsoft. The purchase amounted to $68.7bn and was completed on October 13th, 2023.
“Under Bobby’s watch, Activision Blizzard in its many incarnations has been an enduring pillar of video games.,” said Xbox Chief, Phil Spencer, in an internal memo, though Kotick attracted widespread criticism for the sexual harassment scandal at the company that unfolded under his reign.
According to a report by The Verge citing Microsoft executives, Kotick’s role as a CEO won’t be filled. Instead, executives at Activision Blizzard will report directly to Microsoft Game Content and Studios President, Matt Booty. Under Booty is a suite of notable executives including Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, Activision publishing president Rob Kostich, and Activision Blizzard vice chair Thomas Tippl, The Verge reported.
European esports organisation Astralis announced that CEO Anders Hørsholt had stepped down from his role to become a Strategic Advisor to the executive board. As a result, the company chose Founder and previous CEO Nikolaj Nyholm to replace him.
Hørsholt has been the CEO of Astralis for the last four years and has been at the helm of the company during a difficult time in esports. In the first two years of his tenure, the industry was marred by the pandemic, but despite this, Astralis managed to show increased revenue and decreased loss in its 2022 financial report. In the last year, there has also been a shift in the market often referred to as the esports winter.
Nyholm was the CEO of the esports organisation until 2020. The Danish entrepreneur has founded seven technology and gaming start-ups, his most recent being the game studio Scattershot. Notably, Nyholm is also a founder of esports tournament organiser BLAST.
Multinational esports organisation Team Liquid appointed Işıkcan Aysev as its Senior Vice President (SVP) of Commercial.
Aysev previously worked as the Chief Commercial Officer at European esports organisation Heroic. As Team Liquid’s CCO he will be responsible for sales, partnerships, and new business development for the organisation.
Prior to joining Heroic, Işıkcan worked as a management consultant for 12 years at the consulting firm Kearney, working with clients from various continents in consumer goods, retail and automotive, among other sectors.
Aysev will be looking to further strengthen Team Liquid’s portfolio of partners, which already includes major brands such as hardware brand Alienware, cryptocurrency exchange platform coinbase, car maker Honda, and energy drink Monster Energy, among others.
North American esports organisation Cloud9 announced Tim Mulligan as its new VP, Head of Sales.
Before joining Cloud9, he served as Head of Sales at XSET for two years and worked with 100Thieves as the company’s Head of Strategic Accounts from 2020 to 2022. Before entering the world of esports, Mulligan also worked with major media and gaming companies such as Warner Media, Machinima, EA Sports and THQ, among others.
According to a release, Mulligan will be primarily responsible for revenue generation, sponsor relationship management, strategic planning, and brand representation. The organisation noted that his expertise will be crucial in driving Cloud9’s growth.
UK-based esports organisation Guild Esports has appointed Paul Kingsley as its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Company Secretary.
Kingsley joins Guild having most recently worked as CFO for student discount website UNiDAYS. Prior to his tenure at UNiDAYS, Kingsley also worked as CFO for technology company Edge.network, spent time at beverage companies Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Diageo and is currently on the Advisory Board of the British Beauty Council.
He replaces the outgoing Clare Jarvis, who previously became CFO during a round of leadership hires by the organsation in February 2023.
Toronto-based esports and gaming company Enthusiast Gaming announced that Nick Brien has resigned as CEO, effective immediately.
The company chose current Chairman of the Board and former CEO Adrian Montgomery as its interim CEO and will begin a search to find a new replacement.
From an economic standpoint, 2023 wasn’t a great year for esports and Enthusiast Gaming was one of many entities hit by the macroeconomic conditions. In its latest 2023 Q3 financial report, the esports and media holding company reported an increased net loss of CAD $59.1m (~£34.71m) with revenues failing to increase.
Nonetheless, the company is one of the few public-traded esports companies, owning various properties in the space, including Luminosity Gaming, FPS title EV.IO and Call of Duty League franchise Seattle Surge.
Dominic Müller, formerly of SPORTFIVE and Razer, has joined forces with ex-G2 Esports Head of Global Partnerships Marco Niemann to create a new esports agency called Bright Up Agency.
The new venture will focus on connecting esports, gaming, and entertainment stakeholders to both endemic and non-endemic brands, similar to the work both co-founders are known for.
Dominic Müller and Marco Niemann are very well-known both in the German esports and gaming scenes as well as the global esports ecosystem. Müller previously worked for marketing agency SPORTFIVE where he held the position of Senior Director of Global Partnerships for Esports and Gaming. Meanwhile, before his tenure at G2 Esports, Niemann held notable roles at ESL and Freaks 4U Gaming as Head of Global Sponsorship and VP of Commerical, respectively.
Communications service Discord revealed via an internal memo and an all-hands meeting that it is laying off 17% of its workforce, as reported by The Verge.
According to the internal memo shared by The Verge, cuts will impact 170 people across various departments. CEO of Discord Jason Citron stated in the internal memo that the company’s rapid workforce growth over the last four years had led to inefficiency, which was the ultimate reason for the cuts. According to Citron, Discord’s workforce increased by five times since 2020.
Discord said staff have been offered a “sizable runway as they transition into future employment,” which includes five months of salary (plus an added week for every year employed), five months of benefit continuation, and more.
Data and market research company Nielsen promoted Timo Krueger to Global Head of Esports.
Krueger has more than seven years of experience in the company, having worked as the International Commercial Director for the company’s esports and gaming division over the last three years. Whilst only announced this month, the promotion itself happened at the start of the new year.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity by Nielsen,” Krueger told Esports Insider. “We are seeing that the Industry is developing and is going through some ups and downs but the need for data is even more important in uncertain times and for this, we want to create new Solutions.”
Team 7AM co-founder steps down following leaked Pride Month remarks
Team 7AM co-founder and Managing Director John ‘WundA’ Smith-Howell has stepped down from the European esports organisation following leaked comments made about Pride Month.
The leaked Discord messages, which were revealed by former Team 7AM League of Legends player Benjamin ‘Zhergoth’ Sánchez, show Smith-Howell and fellow co-founder Jody ‘Yoni’ Bruggeman make offensive remarks about the LGBTQ+ celebration.
As a result of the comments, various members of the esports community have shunned the actions with British Esports’ Community Manager, Emma ‘Emzii’ Rose, announcing that she will no longer be associated with the organisation as a player/content creator moving forward.
Team 7AM has yet to make a public statement on how Smith-Howell’s departure will affect the organisation as a whole. However, Kieran Robertson, Team7AM’s Director of Operations did take to X to state that the remarks “will ultimately cost me my job.”