Activision Blizzard has sold an Atlanta expansion slot in its Overwatch League to a group funded by Georgia-based conglomerate Cox Enterprises, league sources told ESPN.
The Atlanta group is the first to finalize agreements to join the Overwatch League in Season 2, which is expected to start in 2019. Two organizations, McCourt Global and Nenking Group, are finalizing negotiations to obtain regional rights to Paris and Guangzhou, China, sources told ESPN on Thursday. Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues CEO Pete Vlastelica previously told German newspaper Handelsblatt that the league wants to add six new franchises across North America, Europe and Asia-Oceania for Season 2.
Expansion slot are expected to sell for $30 million to 60 million, sources told ESPN in June. The specific price depends on the number of bidders, Overwatch player density and general population of each city, according to sources. Slots in the inaugural season sold for $20 million each.
A representative from the Cox-funded group attended the Overwatch League Finals in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday, sources said. In addition to attending the event, he participated in a private owners meeting on Thursday, according to sources. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer, Vlastelica and a number of other Activision Blizzard team business operations and sales staff are also attending the two-day finals event.
Cox Enterprises was founded in 1898 and has since become one of the largest companies in all of the Atlanta metro area; the company has over 60,000 employees across all of its subsidiaries. It owns the likes of Cox Communications, Cox Media Group, Kelly Blue Book, Autotrader.com, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more -- it also invests in a number of emerging tech and media businesses.
In 2017, the company made over $20 billion in revenue. Its founding family, the Cox family, was the fifth-richest family in the United States in 2016, with a total net worth of over $41 billion, according to Forbes data. Cox Enterprises is still owned and operated by the grandchildren of its founder, James M. Cox. The Overwatch League investment is the only current foray for Cox into professional esports.
Cox is the second major conglomerate to fund an Overwatch League franchise. In September, Comcast and its sports and venue subsidiary Spectacor acquired the Philadelphia slot in the Overwatch League for $20 million. The company later appointed Comcast CEO Brian Roberts' son, Tucker Roberts, to run the operation. Comcast's Philadelphia Fusion will compete in the second half of the Overwatch League Grand Finals at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday.
The Overwatch League was conceived throughout 2016 and 2017. Since November 2016, Kotick and his staff have recruited some of the wealthiest and most successful business and sports families in the U.S. to purchase franchises in the league. Existing owners include Spectacor, New England Patriots owner The Kraft Group, New York Mets sister company Sterling.VC and Los Angeles Rams and Denver Nuggets ownership the Kroenke family.
Activision Blizzard and Cox did not respond for comment by the time of publication.