Savvy Gaming Group, which is backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), has added ESL and FACEIT to its growing portfolio.
With the purchase, Savvy Gaming Group has now purchased two of esports' largest tournament operators in ESL and FACEIT. The total purchase of the two comes in at $1.5bn. ESL was previously owned by Modern Times Group, which was co-founded by Ralf Reichert and Jens Hilgers. The company is one of the largest esports tournament organizers in the world, employing over 600 people.
Speaking about the takeover, MTG said; “Following the transaction, MTG will focus fully on accelerating growth in its pure-play gaming business”. MTG acquired DreamHack in 2015 and merged the two under the ESL Gaming brand. The DreamHack name was still used, however, in events such as the DreamHack Winter and Summer events in the companies native Sweden.
The new owners, the Savvy Group, backed by the PIF, will merge ESL and FACEIT into a “global gaming platform”. The PIF has been rapidly expanding their assets in the past few years, with stakes in Disney, Facebook, and Microsoft. The group also had a large windfall recently when Microsoft Purchased Activision Blizzard for $95 a share. This purchase adds to the PIF's growing sports portfolio, which recently added the English football side, Newcastle United, after purchasing an 80% majority stake in the club.
Not a popular purchase for some
While inevitable that the PIF would look to expand more into esports, it's not been met with open arms by everyone. Back in 2020, NEOM sponsored the LEC, which was met with instant backlash from the community and the LEC's front-facing staff. Within a day the deal was cancelled, but it's left a scar on the LEC. NEOM also had a partnership with Blast ended just a day after the announcement.
The PIF, and Saudi Arabia, is a controversial topic. While they do deals with major governments around the globe (especially in the West), Amnesty International has routinely published criticisms of the country. You can read more about it here. Though, this isn't likely to be the last time we hear about the PIF in relation to esports.