Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owner of Arsenal, the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Gladiators, has agreed to a deal that will see it acquire Echo Fox's League of Legends Championship Series slot for $30.25 million, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN.
The deal is pending Riot Games' approval and comes after the expiration of a Monday deadline set by Riot that put Echo Fox, which was cofounded by three-time NBA champion Rick Fox, in jeopardy of losing their League of Legends Championship Series slot, as reported by ESPN on Friday. Since the weekend, Echo Fox has scrambled to strike a deal with a suitor.
"Echo Fox submitted a proposal to sell its slot in the LCS to a new investment group. LCS is reviewing the sale and will be meeting with the proposed ownership group in the coming days," LCS commissioner Chris Greeley said. "We're working diligently to minimize disruption to Echo Fox players and staff for the 2019 season in partnership with the LCS Players' Association. If LCS rejects the proposal, Echo Fox has agreed that LCS will be taking over the sale process for the slot. Our goal is to make sure we have an orderly transition and a new team ready for the 2020 season."
Echo Fox has submitted a proposal to sell its slot in the LCS to a new ownership group. The LCS is reviewing the potential sale and will be meeting with the proposed ownership group in the coming days.
- lolesports (@lolesports) July 23, 2019
On May 15, League of Legends developer Riot Games announced that Echo Fox would have 60 days to remove minority owner Amit Raizada from its cap table following reports of Raizada's use of racist language toward a business partner. That deadline was extended on July 15 to July 23 after Echo Fox submitted a proposal for Raizada's shares to be transferred to an entity owned by a family member.
In April and May, Dexerto reported that, in an email exchange, Raizada used racist language targeted at Twin Galaxies head Jace Hall, whose company was also owned by Echo Fox parent Vision Venture Partners. In another back-and-forth, Raizada threatened Fox and his family after Fox expressed interest in leaving the company to work on ventures with Hall.
So far, Echo Fox have paid $5 million toward their $10 million franchise fee owed to Riot, league sources told ESPN. The remaining $5 million is to be paid over the next few years.
The deal is the second esports venture for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which agreed to pay $20 million to enter the Overwatch League in August 2017. Along with Sentinels, formerly known as Phoenix1, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment founded the Gladiators, the second Los Angeles-based Overwatch League team.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment has a wide portfolio in sports spanning professional basketball, soccer, hockey and lacrosse. In addition to Arsenal, the Nuggets and the Gladiators, the group owns the Colorado Rapids, the Colorado Avalanche, the Colorado Mammoth and the Pepsi Center. Company founder Stan Kroenke is solely the owner of the Los Angeles Rams.
Over the past few years, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment executive Josh Kroenke, the son of Stan and Walmart family heir Ann Walton Kroenke, has pushed for the company to be more involved in esports. At BlizzCon 2016 in Anaheim, California, Stan and Josh Kroenke were photographed spectating esports matches with New England Patriots owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
For the past two years, Sentinels have operated the Gladiators on behalf of the Kroenke group. The Sentinels were originally founded as Phoenix1 in May 2016 by former Paramount Pictures vice chairman Robert Moore and his son Michael.
The group purchased Team Impulse's League Championship Series slot after that team was banned from the league by Riot for not paying its players. In October 2017, Phoenix1's application to become a franchise partner in the League Championship Series was declined.