Esports, just like any other rapidly growing business, relies heavily on the individuals and companies that are willing to invest money in them. Current projections show the entire esports field to be worth more than $1 billion by 2020, but this does not mean that teams and organizations are currently generating that amount of profit. Instead, long-term investments cover the teams and organizations expenses and give funding for further growth and expansion. This includes the purchasing of new venues, players, teams or franchises.
At the same time, the potential of esports as a phenomenon is clear to everyone, so there is an abundance of interested parties willing to invest money here. Often, these entities are venture capital companies or huge funds that diversify their investments over a large number of industries which happens to include esports as well. But, there are also many famous individuals with hefty bank accounts who are aware of esports' potential. They might come from show business, traditional sports or some other field, but all of them are household names, and all have a stake in some esports business. Here is a breakdown of the most important esports celebrity investor currently on the scene.
Ever since the early 1990s, Shaq has been much more than an NBA center who was terrible at shooting but incredible at almost everything else on the court. His appearance and personality quickly allowed him to become a small branding universe in his own right with things like video games, movies, and merchandise, all separate from his long-time commitment to the NBA. After finishing up his time playing basketball, Shaq went into multiple investment ventures using his huge personal wealth. Today, he is involved in NRG esports organization, where Shaq and other investors raised $15 million. The esports team now operates the San Francisco Shock, a part of the Overwatch League, among many other esports teams. Shaq is also hands-on, involved and willing to share his star power, which leads him to be featured in the team’s promotional videos.
The star of That ‘70s Show might have built his career by being a lovable idiot, but his real-life personality is business-sharp. Now, after a thriving TV and film career, many cannot remember when they last saw Kutcher on a screen. His disappearance from TV and movies is because the actor became a successful venture capitalist in the early 2010s. Since then, he has invested in tech companies directly or through his Sound Ventures company, putting money in Airbnb, Skype and many other businesses that focus on digital commerce. He is one of the big investors in Unikrn, an esports cryptocurrency betting platform. This initially shaky investment recently became a lot more solid as Unikrn attained a full gambling license from the Isle of Man. With his eye on the new streaming platform caffeine.tv, there is plenty of reason to believe that Kitcher’s investment in esports will not stop with Unikrn.
Arguably the greatest NBA player of all time, Jordan also spent time during his playing career attempting to be an MLB and Golf pro. He is not the most vocal of esports investors, but his money compensates any lack of direct promotional involvement. He is a part of aXiomatic, an ownership group in esports that owns Team Liquid. With a net worth of $1.7 billion, esports is a small part of his portfolio, but one with a lot of space to grow.
An incredibly interesting figure, this EDM musician, DJ, and producer is no stranger to technology. As a leading figure in the global ascent of electro house, Aoki defined a generation of pop music hits. Naturally, being that he is also a gamer, Aoki found his way to the purchase of Rogue Gaming esports team, which was then acquired by Rekt Global. The team is active in six esports titles, including Fortnite, while Aoki continues to add his leverage of the team’s branding.
This ex-NBA player might not have been the biggest star of the game in his day, but he was paying attention when it comes to the business of sports. Not only that, but Fox also made some important connections that allowed him to see the esports writing on the wall as the next big thing in sports. He quickly applied the same knowledge as an investor and embedded himself in the thick of it. Fox is Echo Fox’s founder and CEO, which now competes in over a dozen gaming titles, with a particularly strong showing in League of Legends. Fox is also a very busy TV actor, which is an income source that could fuel further esports investments.
The public image of this entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and an author might be divisive, but Robbins’ successes are undeniable. With a personal net worth of $500 million, Robbins grew up in a difficult environment and started working when he was just 17. From that point, he never looked back. Recently, he was a part of the investment team, along with Magic Johnson, that bought Team Liquid. The wisdom of the investment is clear right now, just a couple of years since the investment from 2016.
It is hard to downplay the insane popularity of the Canadian hip-hop artist Drake at this moment. To many, anything the man touches becomes golden, and his star power seems to be constantly growing. This is great news for 100 Thieves, one of the top-ranking esports companies in which he invested $25 million along with businessmen Dan Gilbert and Scooter Braun. Drake could also be seen in Twitch streams of Fortnite recently (making it the most watched ever on Twitch), which could provide huge promo for a potential sporting event or two in the future.
The embodiment of the superstar entrepreneur, Mark Cuban is a celebrity as much as a billionaire. His wealth and interests were always heavily based on technology and entertainment, which made it easy for him to enter esports. As the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban made sure they are a part of the 2K League, while he is also one of the key investors behind Unikrn. On the other hand, he often spoke about on a range of problems facing esports without any sugar coating. All of this points to a major league investor who has a lot of punching power but still carefully chooses his investment targets.