Sources: Immortals to rejoin LCS following purchase of OpTic Gaming

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Jun 7, 2019

    Jacob WolfESPN Staff Writer

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    • Staff Writer for ESPN.com
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    • Reports across multiple games, including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros., Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Call of Duty.
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    • Specializes in investigative reporting

Immortals Gaming Club has won a bid to acquire OpTic Gaming and Houston Outlaws parent company Infinite Esports & Entertainment for cash and equity worth $35 to $45 million, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN on Friday.

With the deal, Immortals Gaming Club will absorb all of OpTic Gaming and their League of Legends slot. The company is also now responsible for all of Infinite’s financial obligations, as well as facilitating a separate sale for the Outlaws, sources said, due to Immortals’ ownership of the Los Angeles Valiant, who also compete in the Overwatch League. Immortals declined to comment when reached by ESPN.

Infinite’s board approved the deal on May 30 and is currently working through legal paperwork to close it and on details with Activision Blizzard in regard to the future of the Outlaws, according to sources.

Immortals is expected to re-enter the League of Legends Championship Series for the first time since October 2017. The organization is expected to re-brand the spot currently owned by OpTic Gaming to Immortals following the conclusion of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship in the fall, league sources told ESPN.

Immortals will now be responsible for completing Infinite’s franchise payments to the League Championship Series.

So far, Infinite has paid the LCS $8 million and owes an outstanding $5 million, for a total of $13 million, sources said. Infinite has also paid the Overwatch League $10 million and is responsible for completing an additional $10 million.

Immortals will also have to complete payments to OpTic Gaming for Infinite’s majority acquisition of the team in late 2017. At that time, OpTic and Infinite agreed to a deal that would see OpTic sell 90 percent of its company for $17 million, sources said.

OpTic will become a part of the Immortals’ portfolio of teams and esports businesses that include Immortals, the Valiant, MIBR and Gamers Club.

As for the future of OpTic, Immortals are currently discussing buying a franchise spot in the Call of Duty World League, which is set to launch a city-based league in 2020, league sources said. Current owners in that league include ownership groups behind Team Envy and the Dallas Fuel; Splyce and the Toronto Defiant; the Atlanta Reign; the Paris Eternal; and the New York Excelsior.

On May 15, OpTic minority owner and CEO Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez met with Texas Rangers owners Neil Leibman and Immortals CEO Ari Segal in Frisco, Texas, sources said. That meeting was to discuss Rodriguez’s potential involvement in the OpTic Gaming franchise moving forward. Whether Rodriguez will continue to stay involved has yet to be determined.

When Infinite acquired majority ownership in OpTic in late 2017, Rodriguez took a step back from the organization. Since Infinite went up for sale in January, Rodriguez spoke to several prospective buyers about partnering to buy Infinite and regain control of the OpTic Gaming brand, sources said.

Among those potential investors was former Infinite president and co-founder Chris Chaney. Together, he and Rodriguez put together a bid for Infinite, backed by various investors based in Hong Kong, sources said. While several bidders emerged in the process, the final two were Immortals and the group led by Chaney and Rodriguez. Immortals, however, won that process.

Final details of the deal are currently being worked on by both parties, but the two ownership groups of Infinite — Texas Esports and Aurelius Esports — are both expected to get equity in Immortals Gaming Club, as well as cash payments that will be made over the next year.

Prior to the acquisition, Texas Esports owned 77.5 percent of Infinite, while Aurelius was a 22.5 percent shareholder in the company. Texas Esports includes Leibman and Ray Davis, as well as Houston Astros minority owner John Havens. Aurelius is led by Chaney and includes various minor shareholders.

Immortals was founded in late 2015 when a set of investors — including Lionsgate Interactive Ventures president Peter Levin, D.C. United and Swansea City A.F.C. co-owner Steve Kaplan and others — met budding esports entrepreneur Noah Whinston. Whinston dropped out of Northwestern, and with funding from the group, bought into the LCS and established Immortals.

In October 2017, the LCS converted to a franchise model and chose 10 partners, out of hundreds of applicants, to own teams in the league. Despite two years of operation in the league and in-game success, Immortals was not chosen as a permanent partner.

Whinston stepped down from his role as CEO in 2018, and Immortals appointed former Arizona Coyotes executive Ari Segal in that role. Segal recently led a $30 million funding round.

Immortals is the second former LCS ownership group to make their return to the league this summer.

On Wednesday, Dignitas announced a deal that would see their parent company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, acquire majority stake in Clutch Gaming, a pro League of Legends team founded by the Houston Rockets. That deal includes $12.5 million worth of payments to the Rockets and $7.5 million used for operations and franchise fees, funded by HBSE, in return for 68.2 percent equity in a new entity that owns both Dignitas and Clutch Gaming, sources told ESPN in April. Clutch was valued at just over $30 million, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.