ESL and FACEIT will merge following independent acquisitions by Savvy Gaming Group, which is financially backed by a Saudi sovereign fund. On Monday, SGG agreed to purchase ESL for $1.08 billion, according to a release from Modern Times Group, the majority share owners of ESL. FACEIT was separately acquired for $500 million, according to Handelblatt, the German outlet who first reported on the deal.
Savvy Gaming Group is financially backed by the Public Investment Fund, a Saudi sovereign wealth fund. The CEO of SGG is Brian Ward, a former Senior Vice President at Activision. With the new ownership, ESL and FACEIT merge into ESL FACEIT Group. The new deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022 according to an announcement from ESL FACEIT Group.
“SGG has committed to invest heavily in the games and esports industry and to materially strengthen the global games community,” Ward said in a press release. “We are delighted to be working with ESL FACEIT Group – a deal that will enable us to actively support the creation of a world-class esports ecosystem.”
ESL, which is based out of Cologne, Germany, is one of the most established esports tournament organizers in the world. They are known for running tournaments in games like Dota 2, Starcraft II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, among others. Recently, ESL celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Intel Extreme Masters Katowice tournament, one of the first dedicated esports tournaments.
FACEIT is an esports company that organizes matches at the amateur and recreational levels. They run leagues for games like CS:GO, League of Legends, and Rocket League.
Following the merger, ESL and FACEIT will keep the same leadership. Craig Levine, the CEO of ESL, and Niccolo Maisto, the CEO of FACEIT, will act as co-CEOs. Ralf Reichert, the co-founder and current co-CEO of ESL, will become the Executive Chairman; this will be a non-operational role.
“Our merger with FACEIT, along with the backing of SGG, will give us more know-how, capabilities, and resources than ever before to deliver on this vision,” Levine said in a press release. “Whether you are competing or watching, doing so socially or at a professional level, every stage of the pathway will be improved through this merger.”
“In the past years, ESL and FACEIT had a significant positive impact for the growth of the esports industry, bringing a variety of propositions for players, teams, publishers, and developers,” Maisto said.
The Saudi PIF is one of the largest in the world, with approximately $500 billion in current assets. Another PIF-backed group, NEOM, was slated to partner with the League of Legends European Championship before public and community outcry forced Riot Games to reconsider. BLAST, another CS:GO tournament organizer, similarly ended a prospective deal with NEOM.