Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund Bets Big on Games and Esports

Posted on 01/25/2022

Formed in 2021, Savvy Gaming Group (SGG) is a games and esports company, formed with a mission to drive the long-term growth and development of esports and the wider games industry worldwide. SGG is a Closed Joint Stock Company that is 100% owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). SGG has a seven-member board and an executive committee. Savvy’s CEO is Brian Ward, a former Activision Senior Vice President. Brian Ward works alongside Jerry Gamez, CEO for Savvy’s infrastructure company, and Kadri Harma, CEO for Savvy’s ecosystem company.

SGG has five operating companies, an esports company, an investment fund (Savvy fund), an ecosystem company, a games studio and an infrastructure company, each of which has its own board.

SGG acquired two major video gaming’s biggest tournament and league operators, ESL Gaming and FACEIT, for a combined US$ 1.5 billion. The two companies are due to merge to form the ESL FaceIt Group. Craig Levine and Niccolo Maisto will serve as co-CEOs.

Firm Info
Swedish gaming firm Modern Times Group MTG AB is the owner of ESL, which was co-founded by Ralf Reichert and Jens Hilgers. ESL hosts large-scale tournaments for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2. Modern Times Group sold ESL to SGG at an enterprise value of US$ 1.05 billion. Modern Times Group owns 91.46% of ESL Gaming, which corresponds to US$ 960 million in enterprise value. Modern Times Group acquired its majority stake in ESL back in 2015 for €78 million.

London-based FACE IT (FACEIT) Limited is privately owned and runs tournaments in the CS:GO space. FACEIT raised Series A capital from Index Ventures VII, Index Ventures VIII, Anthos Capital II, Anthos Capital III, United Ventures, and others. Niccolo Maisto is a Co-Founder of FACEIT, where he serves as Board Member and Chief Executive Officer. Maisto co-founded StartMiUp.

J.P. Morgan Securities PLC served as lead financial advisor. Ernst & Young AB has assisted in financial and accounting matters and Norton Rose Fulbright LLP and Gernandt & Danielsson Advokatbyrå served as legal advisors to MTG. Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc has acted as independent advisor to MTG’s Board of Directors. Aream & Co. served as financial advisor and Latham & Watkins (London) LLP served as legal advisor to FACEIT Ltd.

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