Echo Fox ownership group Vision Esports has raised $38 million in a funding round that includes backing from Kevin Durant, Odell Beckham Jr., the St. Louis Cardinals and others, the holding company announced on Thursday.
The round was led by Evolution Media, an investment firm backed by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and private equity firm TPG Growth. Other investors in the round, outside of the athletes, include Shamrock Holdings -- the private investment firm backed by the Walt Disney family (separate from the company, which is the parent of ESPN) -- Seth Bernstein Capital Management and Simon Tikhman of First Access Entertainment. Durant is investing alongside his business partner Rich Kleiman.
Vision Esports currently owns and invests in a number of esports properties. It was formed by former San Jose Sharks minority owner Stratton Sclavos, video game developer Jace Hall and former MGM Resorts executive Chris Nordling. Vision owns esports team Echo Fox, video game record-keeper Twin Galaxies and esports content arm Vision Entertainment.
"We have been following the esports sector for several years." St. Louis Cardinals vice president Dan Good said in a news release. "In the last year, we have gotten to know the team at Vision Esports and felt this was an exciting investment opportunity. In addition to the sector's growth potential, we were impressed with Vision's depth of experience that is applicable to the new esports ecosystem, including Stratton Sclavos' experience with the San Jose Sharks; Jace Hall at Warner Brothers Interactive; Chris Nordling at MGM Resorts and Mike Mossholder at UFC."
Echo Fox is staffed and led by several former athletes. Its founder is three-time NBA champion and actor Rick Fox and former New York Knicks forward Jared Jeffries is the company's president. The organization received investment from the New York Yankees in October.
"Evolution Media has spent several years advising and analyzing companies in the esports sector, and we're particularly excited to partner with a world class management team led by Stratton, who we've known since his days running Strikeforce and the San Jose Sharks," Evolution Media founder Rick Hess said in a news release. "Esports is one of the highest growth sectors within all media and entertainment. We couldn't be more bullish on the space and Vision's market position."
Echo Fox was awarded a franchise slot in the North American League of Legends Championship Series, the most popular league in esports, in October. It will pay League of Legends developer Riot Games $10 million over the course of the next few years. It has participated in that league since its initial buy-in, prior to a franchise reformat, since Rick Fox and his business partners bought the slot owned by Gravity Gaming for $1 million in December 2015.