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25 Jan, 2022 11:10

Saudi prince buys major esports company

Savvy Gaming, owned by Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman, has reportedly purchased ESL and FACEIT for $1.5 billion
Saudi prince buys major esports company

The Saudi Arabian government’s controversial Public Investment Fund has reportedly spent over a billion dollars to purchase one of the oldest and biggest gaming companies, ESL, which is responsible for organizing some of the largest esports competitions in the world, and an additional half a billion to buy out the FACEIT esports tournament platform. 

The companies will reportedly be merged into one entity, ESL FACEIT Group, and combine their technology and reach to “create the ultimate platform for competitive gaming,” which will potentially cover any and all esports competitions, from the casual level to arena-sized events.

The holding company behind the merger is known as Savvy Gaming Group. Established in 2021 and run by Activision Blizzard’s former vice president, Brian Ward, the company is meant to “drive long-term growth and development” of the gaming and esports industry. According to press materials, the company is fully owned by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, estimated to be worth over $500 billion. 

The fund is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and its purpose is to transition Saudi Arabia’s economy away from the traditional oil market and into the future with sizeable investments in various developing industries. As such, the fund has already bought considerable stakes in many major companies, spending some $3 billion on some of the biggest publishers in gaming, such as EA, Activision Blizzard, and Take Two.

The Public Investment Fund has also made significant investments in traditional sports as well, buying out the Premier League’s Newcastle United Football Club, which drew sharp criticism from the likes of Amnesty International, who have described the move as “sportswashing” – the practice of buying out and using high-profile sports teams to distract from human right abuses. 

The Premier League has stated that it would not be controlled by the Saudi Arabian government despite the acquisition, to which Amnesty International replied: “As the season progresses we hope fans, players and Newcastle United backroom staff will look seriously at the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about the jailing of people like Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, whose 20-year sentence for tweeting was upheld just hours before the Newcastle deal went through.” 

It’s unclear what kind of influence Saudi Arabia will have in the gaming world, but so far things are going as usual, as the next major ESL event is scheduled to take place on February 25 with a $1M CS:GO championship at IEM Katowice 2022 in Poland.