SBD/October 20, 2017/Franchises

Yankees Take Different Approach To Gaming With Investment In Vision Esports

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The Yankees spread their bets in their first foray into esports, eschewing a splashy takeover of a single team in favor of becoming a limited partner in Vision Esports, an L.A.-based fund with three distinctly different plays in the growing space. Vision is the largest shareholder in the esports team Echo Fox, a gaming competition organizer called Twin Galaxies and Vision Entertainment, a studio that creates video content about esports. Vision General Partner Stratton Sclavos said the fund wants to be in a spot to benefit from esports growth while not being too reliant on any single component. He compared it to investing in an NFL team, the league itself and ESPN a generation ago. "We're here to build an industry at the same time we're here to build companies," Sclavos said. They also are not relying solely on team ownership, which is exposed to risk via the boom-and-bust nature of video game popularity. Echo Fox has reportedly been accepted into Riot Games' North American League Championship Series -- the top North American circuit for its "League of Legends" game. It is a promising sign for Echo Fox, but Twin Galaxies intends to operate competitions on behalf of other game publishers and Vision will create streaming video programming to appeal to fans across many games. Typically, the Yankees’ role as a limited partner would give them little say over a fund's day-to-day decisions. "But because of their lead position and who they are, we're also giving them a seat on the board of Vision Esports, so they'll have more influence," Sclavos said. It is not yet decided who from the Yankees will hold the board position. The Yankees did not return a call seeking comment.

TESTING THE WATERS: The Yankees' move is yet another twist on traditional sports ownership of esports businesses. Many have entered the space, but there is nothing approaching a standard template yet. For instance, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment acquired Team Dignitas outright and has fully integrated the team into its operations, while Bucks co-Owner Wes Edens personally acquired an existing team he renamed FlyQuest, but has kept it separate from the Bucks. Meanwhile, the Warriors have applied for a spot in the NALCS circuit without a team.
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