The Bronx Bombers are the latest pro sports club to take a bite of the eSports apple.
The New York Yankees have made an equity investment in Vision Esports, an investment company that is the largest shareholder of three eSports-related companies: Echo Fox, founded by former NBA all-star Rick Fox, which fields 10 competitive-gaming teams; Twin Galaxies, a league operator and provider of video-game performance validation and player rankings; and eSports content producer Vision Entertainment.
Financial terms of the Yankees’ investment are not being disclosed. Vision Esports was established by private-equity firm Vision Venture Partners and founded by Rick Fox along with VVP partners Amit Raizada and Stratton Sclavos.
“Guided by an impressively skilled and sports-savvy leadership team, Vision Esports is transcending the industry with a bold, innovative approach to their business, and we are excited to enter into this dynamic arena as their partner,” Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner and co-chairman of the New York Yankees, said in a statement.
The Yankees and Vision Esports — led by general partners are Stratton Sclavos, Jace Hall and Chris Nordling — will “accelerate the growth and increase the global brand awareness” of the three companies, according to the parties. The MLB team said it will bring to bear its marketing, sales and partnership experience to the Vision Esports portfolio.
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“We look forward to exploring synergies between the Yankees and all of our portfolio companies to maximize the opportunity for a successful esports ecosystem for teams, players and fans,” Sclavos, former CEO of VeriSign, said in a statement.
The Yankees’ move follows other owners of traditional sports teams diving into eSports. Josh Harris and David Blitzer — who own the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils and English Premiere League soccer team Crystal Palace — last year acquired U.S. eSports team Team Dignitas and “League of Legends” team Apex Gaming. Last month, they consolidated their investments in a new holding company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
In addition, there’s eSports ownership group aXiomatic, which is led by Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Peter Guber, former head of Columbia Pictures Entertainment, who owns the Golden State Warriors; and Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards. And this summer, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon were among those who have purchased franchises in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League.
Echo Fox, which Rick Fox formed in January 2016, currently consists of 10 teams that compete in “League of Legends,” “Call of Duty,” “Gears of War,” “Vainglory” and “H1Z1” pro leagues and on pro circuits for “Street Fighter,” “Injustice 2,” “Smash Brothers” and “Tekken.”
Twin Galaxies earlier this month announced a new Pro League Division to create, govern, and operate new professional eSports leagues in partnership with video-game publishers. Vision Entertainment produces original scripted and unscripted eSports formats, and currently broadcasts five shows on Facebook Live that reach a combined audience of more than 2 million fans.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are in the middle of a post-season run, leading the Houston Astros 3-2 in the MLB’s American League Championship Series.