Esports Movers and Shakers: February 2024

esports personnel roundup february 2024

Esports Movers and Shakers is Esports Insider’s monthly compilation of the biggest personnel moves in the esports industry.

Personnel headlines for February 2024 once again featured layoffs, this time large cuts from ESL FACEIT Group. Nonetheless, some notable names from the esports industry also made moves last month.

To read the full story, click the link in the corresponding title.

Spotlighted story

Jonas Gundersen NIP
Image credit: Ninjas in Pyjamas / Jonas Gundersen

Esports organisation NIP Group’s COO, Jonas Gundersen, 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. He said 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. He previously worked at Danish esports organisation North Esports as COO before joining Ninjas in Pyjamas in 2020.

Regarding his as-yet-undisclosed next move, he said it would involve creating value across a “variety of entities” and that the future of esports was looking bright.

ESL FACEIT Group lays off 15% of employees
ESL FACEIT Group lays off 15% of employees

Global esports tournament company ESL FACEIT Group (EFG) has announced a round of layoffs which will affect approximately 15% of its global workforce.

The layoffs appear to affect the entirety of the company rather than just specific departments. According to the company, the decision to reduce its workforce was made to support EFG’s ‘sustainable growth ambitions and profitability’.

A 15% layoff round represents a significant reduction in EFG’s workforce. VentureBeat reported estimates in the range of 250-300 people may be laid off across all departments and seniority levels. Germany-based EFG did not share actual numbers, citing ‘local labour laws’ as a reason for not disclosing the information.

EFG said the layoff would ensure it could continue supporting its primary business goals and core mission, though the company did recently start its own streaming platform and sign a deal with Activision Blizzard to produce Overwatch esports.

Jason Lake, founder of Complexity
Image credit: Jason Lake via X

North American esports conglomerate GameSquare has sold Complexity Gaming to an investor group led by the esports organisation’s original founder and CEO, Jason Lake.

Lake’s investment group called Global Esport Properties bought Complexity and its assets for $10.36m, following the confirmation of GameSquare’s acquisition by FaZe Clan earlier that week.

Jason Lake founded Complexity in 2003. It marks the second time Lake has sold Complexity, having originally sold it to DirecTV in 2006, before GameSquare acquired the esports organisation for $27m in 2021.

Jason Lake continued on as CEO of Complexity while under GameSquare and will continue as CEO under the newly-independent Complexity.

Image of Kieran Holmes-Darby holding microphone in front of podium
Image credit: Ear to the Ground

Kieran Holmes-Darby, co-founder of EXCEL ESPORTS (now GiantX), joined global creative agency Ear to the Ground. Holmes-Darby joins the agency as its Business Director to work with brands looking to increase their involvement in the gaming and esports industries.

Founded in 2003, Ear to the Ground creates promotional campaigns utilising the importance of fans. The agency has collaborated with the likes of PlayStation, Sony’s gaming brand INZONE, and clothing brand New Balance. It also worked with wellness technology manufacturer Therabody alongside professional footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to a release, Holmes-Darby will ‘drive impact for brands within gaming and esports’ in addition to assisting new brands enter the sector with the creation of fan-focused promotional campaigns.

Kieran Holmes-Darby is best known for founding UK esports organisation EXCEL ESPORTS in 2014 alongside his brother Joel Holmes-Darby.

NFL player Dexter Lawrence joins Agent
NFL player Dexter Lawrence joins Agent

American Football player Dexter Lawrence, currently playing for the New York Giants in the NFL, joined esports and entertainment organisation Agent as its newest content creator.

Lawrence, nicknamed ‘Sexy Dexy’, will work with Agent on content creation, branding and other activities that help boost the organisation’s appeal with sports fans and the general public.

Lawrence recently launched his Twitch channel where he streamed Call of Duty matches. In the sports world, Lawrence is an established defensive player for the Giants, having renewed a contract with the team worth almost $100m (~£78.8m) recently.

Agent is an esports brand founded in 2019 by Conrad Thompson. The organisation is best known for its Fortnite rosters, which competed in the 2023 FNCS Global Championship and took home seventh and ninth places in the final tournament.

Lawrence joins a growing number of professional athletes that are looking towards esports to support the industry and grow their own personal brands.

Syracuse University esports degree
Image credit: Syracuse University

Syracuse University, a private university located in New York, United States, expanded its esports programme with three new hires: Nikita Bair, Sean Kelly and Travis Yang.

Bair will take over as Esports Program Manager, Kelly will act as Director of Production and Outreach and Yang has been appointed Director of Competition at the University.

Located in Syracuse, New York, the university has more than 22,000 students and is known for one of its alumni being current US President Joe Biden. The university first started a dedicated esports programme in 2023, with courses in esports business and management, esports communications, and esports media and design.

The new hires come from coaching, production and academic backgrounds, and are expected to lead their respective sectors to grow the university’s esports programme as a whole. New Esports Program Manager Nikita Bair worked at creating the first esports programme in New England at the Northeastern University in Boston. He also previously worked at Shenandoah University as an esports coordinator.

Nielsen appoints Timo Krueger as the new Global Head of Esports
Image Credit: Nielsen

Data and market research company Nielsen has 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.

Krueger will be looking to help and support various stakeholders in the industry, providing comprehensive data to evaluate sponsorships and support the companies’ strategies.

Nielsen is a renowned market research company, providing extensive data across all industries, including traditional sports and esports.

Overwatch's Brigitte voice actress joins Ex Oblivione as co-owner
Overwatch’s Brigitte voice actress joins Ex Oblivione as co-owner

Swedish voice actor Matilda Smedius, known for being the voice of Brigitte in FPS game Overwatch, joined European esports organisation Ex Oblivione as a Co-Owner.

Ex Oblivione is an organisation most known for its Overwatch roster that competed in Overwatch Contenders tournaments. Smedius joins the organisation to help it grow and scale to become one of the region’s premier Overwatch teams.

Matilda Smedius joins the organisation’s leadership structure together with its two other co-owners, Founder and Managing Director Kevin Hondijk and Vidyuth Manu, its Director of Operations. Smedius is the voice behind Brigitte, a Swedish Overwatch character.

The organisation noted that it is undergoing an extensive restructuring which includes bringing Smedius on board and establishing key goals that the company will follow in the future. 

Indian esports veterans create Trident Gaming
Indian esports veterans create Trident Gaming

Two Indian esports and gaming veterans, Abhijeet ‘Ghatak’ Andhare and Sunny ‘Fea’ Lohia, have announced the creation of a new esports company in India, Trident Gaming.

The company aims to focus on grassroots development and projects that nurture new talent, as well as work with talent, produce content and help facilitate partnerships between brands and esports stakeholders.

The company’s founders are known for their work in the Indian esports and gaming market. Andhare is a former professional PUBG Mobile player and coach, who most recently held the coaching position in Indian esports organisation GodLike Esports. His co-founder, Sunny Lohia, comes from a production background, having worked for production company Esports Network.

The new venture will be focused on bringing attention to emerging talent in India, and its founders noted that the company aims to create different revenue streams and elevate the Indian esports industry. This will be done by launching several projects aimed at identifying emerging talent in India, while also supporting them to become, as company puts it, ‘national stars’.

Astralis bolsters Communications and Community with a new department
Astralis bolsters Communications and Community with a new department

Danish esports organisation Astralis established a new department called Communications and Community and appointed Director of Communications Steen Laursen to lead it.

The Communications and Community department will focus on the company’s digital presence, PR, and media content. According to the organisation, this will enable Astralis to establish a closer relationship with its fanbase.

The new department was announced together with another new role inside its marketing team, the Tactical Partner Marketing Manager. According to Astralis, moving its marketing functions to the commercial group enables the company to “offer a more integrated service to partners”.

Commenting on the topic for Esports Insider, Steen Laursen, the department’s Director noted that its establishment will offer an improved partner marketing service, increased focus on fan communication, more resources directed at our growing community, and an integrated approach to communication across own and earned media.

Esports Insider