ESL and Dreamhack are now owned by Saudi Arabia

Pending regulatory approval, a parent company owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has purchased e-sports event organizer ESL Gaming and tournament platform FACEIT. According to Sports Business Journal, the price of both companies is $1.5 billion. As part of the acquisition, the two companies will merge into the ESL FACEIT Team and plan to combine their technology and expertise to “create the ultimate platform for competitive gaming.”

ESL is headquartered in Cologne, Germany and hosts CS:GO, Dota 2 and other tournaments, as well as Dreamhack LAN events after the merger in 2020. FACEIT is an edge gaming platform competition provides anti-cheat, matchmaking, and tournament features for players and game publishers. Following the merger, ESL CEO Craig Levine and FACEIT CEO Niccolo Maisto will co-lead the new organization.

ESL FACEIT Group’s goal is to bring games and players “from casual competitions to arena events on one platform” – essentially, to entertaining tournaments, small and big for everyone e-sports. Along with that joint statement of intent, the company delved into its plans for a game it’s heavily involved in: Counter-Strike. ESL FACEIT Group said it plans to “drive more stability” to the North American CS:GO esports scene by increasing the number of competitions, creating more momentum for professional teams and improve existing infrastructure. Ultimately, it aspires to be “a truly global ecosystem” for CS:GO eSports with an “accessible, well-connected competitive circuit” for all.

The parent company behind the merger is called Savvy Gaming Group. It was created in 2021 “with a mission to promote the long-term growth and development of the gaming and e-sports industries worldwide” and is wholly owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Saudi Arabia, controls at least $500 billion of the country’s assets and is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Savvy Gaming Group itself is led by CEO Brian Ward, a former Activision executive who helped lead the Blizzard integration during the 2008 merger.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund caused controversy when it led a team to take over the Premier League’s Newcastle United Football Club. One of the deal’s biggest critics, Amnesty International, calls it “sports activism,” defined as the use of popular sports teams or events to distract from human rights abuses, in this case specifically referring to Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment of activists and dissidents. When the deal was approved, the Premier League said it “received legally binding assurances” that the Saudi government would not control Newcastle United.

Amnesty International said: “Despite guarantees of supposed separation from the Saudi state, ownership of St James’ Park ‘is now highly dependent on the management of the image. photo for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his government,” Amnesty International said last October. “As the season progresses, we hope the fans, the players and the staff. Newcastle United logistics will take the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia seriously and stand ready to speak out about the jailing of the likes of Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, who has a 20-year sentence for tweeting just hours before The deal with Newcastle has come through.”

The next big ESL event is the $1 million CS:GO championship at IEM Katowice 2022, which will take place on February 25.

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The source: ESL and Dreamhack are now owned by Saudi Arabia

Emma Bowman

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