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Esports organizers ESL and FACEIT sold for $1.5 billion to Savvy Gaming Group

Savvy Gaming Group is a game industry investment group backed by the Saudi Arabian government's Public Investment Fund.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

January 24, 2022

1 Min Read
The logo for Savvy Gaming Group

Esports event organizer Savvy Gaming Group is taking ownership of two other major esports organizing groups. Those groups are ESL and FACEIT, and it's purchasing them for $1.5 billion, according to Sports Business Journal.

Both organizations run tournaments for competitive games like DOTA 2,Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, and beyond. FACEIT also operates an app that helps connect competitive players and allows independent tournament operation. 

Savvy Gaming Group meanwhile, is an investing group that consists of five companies focused on "growing and strengthening the [video game] industry." CEO Brian Ward previously worked as senior vice president of worldwide studios at Activision Blizzard. The company is backed by the Saudi Arabian Government's Public Investment Fund (PIF), and is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabian government's investments in the world of esports have drawn uncomfortable headlines over the last few years. The Public Investment Fund quietly invested in companies like Activision Blizzard, Take-Two, and EA with little fanfare, but a government sponsorship of Riot Games' European League of Legends Championship league drew backlash from players, developers, and broadcasters over the country's dismal human rights record and treatment of LGBT people. 

The PIF is also chaired by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman. Salman was directly implicated in the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It's unclear yet if similar backlash to the Riot sponsorship will emerge from competitors in the ESL scene, or if developers whose games are featured in ESL or FACEIT tournaments will have any objections. 

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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