KSV acquires Samsung Galaxy's League of Legends team

Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin, third from left, smiles along with his Samsung Galaxy team after finally besting SK Telecom T1 in the 2017 League of Legends World Championships. Riot Games

KSV eSports has acquired Samsung Galaxy's League of Legends team, the organization announced Thursday. This is KSV's third purchase of a Korean world championship team in the last six months; the two previous signings were Lunatic-Hai (Overwatch) and MVP Black (Heroes of the Storm).

KSV has been looking at various LCK teams since this summer.

"We came into the market and tried to learn as much as we could about every team -- their culture, strategies, business situation, roster situation, everything," KSV CEO Kevin Chou told ESPN. He explained that the process was similar to how they decided which Overwatch team to buy.

"We looked at whether a team would continue to compete for championships in the long term, and whether the core members of a team had good chemistry," he said. "In the LCK, there is always a bit of a challenge about building a core that really works. We wanted the right core of players and coaches."

According to Chou, a number of teams (including Samsung) made it past the initial filtering stage and were seriously considered. Some of them would have needed hefty roster investments to compete at the top level, but such caveats did not automatically disqualify any candidates. "We did consider those teams that could possibly fight with, say, SKT, if they just had a good budget," he said.

What ultimately tipped the scales in Samsung's favor was -- obviously -- the team's performance at Worlds. KSV was impressed with their consistency, teamwork, and resistance to pressure. Once the team returned to South Korea, a series of "very fruitful" discussions took place, and the deal was made.

As for how the team will be run in the immediate future, KSV plans to let the League of Legends experts carry on as they have been doing. The company will focus on what it can do best.

"At this in point in time, we don't really have the ability to directly make them an even stronger team," Chou said. "They're the best in the world -- we're not going to pretend that we know better about how to compete. Instead, we're going to focus on telling their stories to the entire world. That was our value proposition. They deserve to be better recognized, both as a team and as individuals. So we're going to invest in marketing and media production infrastructure to make that happen."

That infrastructure will not be limited to South Korea and Silicon Valley, it seems. KSV also announced Thursday that it had opened a Shanghai office to further its presence in China.

"Our main focus is to provide stronger infrastructure for our teams as they compete and win in China," said Weiwei Geng, KSV's new General Manager for China. Geng has been in the gaming industry for his whole career, including a 6-year tenure at Kabam China, where he worked together with several of KSV's executives. He is planning to partner KSV with leading Chinese media and streaming platforms.

Samsung Galaxy's new name has yet to be decided. While Lunatic-Hai and MVP Black were rebranded to Seoul Dynasty and KSV Black, respectively, the Dynasty is a brand exclusive to the Overwatch League, and KSV plans to completely rebrand the rest of its operations very soon.

"By the start of 2018, the KSV brand won't exist," Chou said. "KSV was always meant to be a temporary name for us while we got proper branding work done. It's part of why we haven't focused that much on promoting the KSV brand -- it was never going to be around for long."