Is E-Sports Reuniting The Dream Team? Michael Jordan Leads $26M Investment In aXiomatic Gaming
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Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who refused to license his image for video games while he was playing, just became the latest sports icon to join a crossover between the National Basketball Association and esports, ESPN reported.
Jordan, 55, is leading a $26 million Series C funding round in aXiomatic Gaming, an e-sports ownership group and parent company of professional-gaming franchise Team Liquid.
Considered by many to be the greatest NBA player of all time, Jordan won six championships and has a net worth of $1.7 billion, according to Forbes. He has brand deals with Nike, Hanes and Gatorade and a majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets.
Jordan joins Magic Johnson as a co-owner in aXiomatic.
“Esports is reuniting the Dream Team.” — Forbes
Professional gamers can make millions of dollars in international competition. Team Liquid’s European team won The International 2017 tournament for the popular game title “Dota 2,” with an $11-million purse, LA Times reported.
aXiomatic is an esports and video game enabler that invests in companies. It was co-founded in mid-2016 by Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber and Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. They appointed as CEO Bruce Stein (former Sony and Mattel executive). In September 2016, aXiomatic acquired a majority stake in Team Liquid, which Forbes ranks No. 3 on its list of the world’s most valuable esports companies.
Based in Los Angeles and Utrecht, Netherlands, Team Liquid has professional-gaming teams in multiple esports titles including League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and more.
Early investors in Team Liquid included Magic Johnson and Steve Case (AOL co-founder).
“Now our group has both Jordan and Magic on the same team,” Stein told ESPN. “For the purposes of bringing on traditional sports strategy, competitive training and being able to take best-of-class learning from other sports, it was pretty exciting for us to bring both Magic and Michael together in this group.”
The round is being led by Jordan, investing through his family office, and Declaration Capital, the family office of Carlyle Group billionaire co-founder David Rubenstein, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Series C investment round includes additional investment from existing company chairmen Guber, Leonsis, Bruce Karsh and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning owner). David Rubenstein, cofounder of private equity firm Carlyle Group (net worth of $2.8 billion) is investing in aXiomatic through his family office, Declaration Capital, Forbes reported.
“The next generation of sports fans are esports fans,” Leonsis said in a statement. “Esports is the fastest-growing sector in sports and entertainment.”
Fifteen NBA teams have mutual ownership or partner with esports teams including the Wizards, Warriors, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Miami Heat, ESPN reported. In the second season of the NBA 2K League, 21 NBA team affiliates will participate. This partnership between the NBA and NBA 2K developer Take-Two Interactive is expected to launch in early 2019.
In October, at least three major esports organizations completed funding rounds:
- Multi-game team Cloud9 completed a record-setting $53.7 million Series B funding round led by Chicago-based Valor Equity Partners.
- North American League of Legends team 100 Thieves, co-owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, completed a Series A round backed by Grammy-winning artist Drake and Scooter Braun, whose company manages Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.