Memphis Grizzlies co-owner acquires majority share in e-sports franchise

Thursday September 29th, 2016

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For the third time this week, an NBA owner has made moves in the e-sports world, with the latest coming Wednesday as Memphis Grizzlies co-owner and co-executive chairman Steve Kaplan reportedly increased his stake in the gaming team Immortals.

Peter Levin, the president of interactive ventures and games at Lionsgate, told GamesBeat that Levin is now a “major shareholder” at Immortals and will also join the company’s board.

“Working with guys like Steve Kaplan gives me confidence in the future of our industry,” Immortals CEO Noah Whinston tweeted. “Big things are coming.”

Kaplan, Oaktree Capital Management’s principal and group founder, was in a consortium that purchased the e-sports franchise that would become known as Immortals in 2015, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He also led an investment consortium that acquired a controlling majority of Premier League club Swansea City A.F.C. in June. At one time, Kaplan was in negotiations to acquire a share of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers became the first U.S. professional sports team to purchase e-sports franchises. On Tuesday, Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber and Washington Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis led a group that acquired the controlling interest to Team Liquid.

With the e-sports industry currently nearing $500 million in revenue for 2016, look for more current and former players along with team owners to continue their entry into the gaming space.

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