Kroenke Sports & Entertainment parts with Sentinels, to build own esports front office

Kroenke Sports and Entertainment executive Josh Kroenke, pictured, and Michael Neary will be building an esports front office to manage the Los Angeles Gladiators and the Los Angeles Call of Duty team. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment will be building its own esports front office to manage the Los Angeles Gladiators and one of the two future Los Angeles-based Call of Duty teams after mutually parting ways with Sentinels, the organization that had been running the Gladiators.

The Gladiators will come under new management for the first time since the team was founded in late 2017. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment agreed to pay $25 million in August to acquire rights to a Call of Duty Global League franchise slot in Los Angeles.

Both teams will be managed by a front office that is expected to be built by KSE executive Josh Kroenke and Michael Neary, a Denver-based real estate investor who attended college with Kroenke in Missouri.

Among potential front-office candidates the two have spoken with is former Echo Fox president Jared Jeffries, who was fired several weeks ago after Riot Games seized Echo Fox's League of Legends Championship Series slot, sources familiar with recruitment told ESPN. Jeffries, a former NBA player, previously worked for Kroenke at the Denver Nuggets as a director of player personnel.

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and Sentinels will split after they settled a lawsuit filed by Sentinels co-founder and CEO Rob Moore against KSE, which alleged that executive Josh Kroenke violated a verbal joint venture agreement between the two. That suit stemmed from Kroenke Sports & Entertainment's attempt to acquire Echo Fox's League of Legends slot for $30.25 million, a deal that fell through after the suit was filed. Financial details of the settlement were not disclosed.

"Given what we've accomplished with the Sentinels brand and the Sentinels management team, we currently have what is a leading position in Fortnite, and our Apex Legends team came in fifth in the big tournament this weekend and third in the X Games," Moore told ESPN. "We have raised a significant amount of capital, so we are looking to invest in the Sentinels brand and build the Sentinels brand in the games we're in and expand into new games. That is going to be the focus."

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment first entered the esports space in the summer of 2017, when Josh Kroenke and his father, KSE founder Stan Kroenke, committed $20 million to Activision Blizzard to enter the Overwatch League with a Los Angeles franchise. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment also owns the Nuggets, Arsenal, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and the Pepsi Center. Stan Kroenke owns the Los Angeles Rams.

In June 2018, Moore and his staff rebranded Phoenix1 as Sentinels. Phoenix1 competed in the League Championship Series for three splits in summer 2016 and throughout summer 2017, but their application for franchising was declined by the league in October 2017. The team features a number of top battle royale players, including Fortnite World Cup solo champion Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf.