Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and his son, assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, have been accepted into the North American League of Legends Championship Series as the newest franchise owners, sources close to Riot Games and the Lacob family told ESPN.
Week Two at the League of Legends World Championship began with a bang as GIGABYTE Marines pulled off a crucial upset of Immortals in Wuhan, China. Then came another blow to the North American squad, this time by a previously winless Fnatic.
The three North American League of Legends teams competing for a spot in the Worlds knockout phase had a good first week. But with identical records to last year’s epic collapse, can NA prevent history from repeating?
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The Lacobs will be obligated to pay a $13 million entry fee for the League Championship Series over the next few years. That starts with an $8 million upfront fee; $5 million as the first installment and $3 million for not owning an existing franchise in prior League of Legends seasons.
The Lacob application was consulted on by Catalyst Sports & Media, its president Josh Swartz and its two esports executive vice presidents Bryce Blum and Avi Bhuiyan, sources said. Catalyst most recently consulted on deals such as the Hersh Interactive Group’s investment in Team Envy and the Madison Square Garden Company’s majority stake purchase in Counter Logic Gaming.
The application was earlier reported by SportsBusiness Journal.
The Lacobs are the first non-endemic organization to be accepted into the league, which will admit 10 total teams from a pool of applicants that include longtime League of Legends teams and non-existing sports owners, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, sources said.
Joe Lacob is the third Golden State Warriors co-owner to purchase an esports team in the past 18 months. His fellow co-executive chairman, Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, is a leader in aXiomatic, an investment group that purchased majority stake in Team Liquid in July 2016. Warriors minority owner and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya was a part of a $3 million seed round of funding for esports organization Cloud9.
The application process for the North American League Championship Series opened in May, when developer and league organizer Riot Games announced it would be making league changes to include permanent ownership, an academy league and revenue-sharing options.
Applications were due on July 28 and later narrowed down to a smaller pool in early September. Applicants who made it past the first round met with Riot Games at Riot’s Los Angeles headquarters to go over their application, answer questions and, for some, meet one another for the first time.
Joe Lacob, a former minority owner in the Boston Celtics, and Guber led a group that included a number of investors that purchased the Warriors in 2010 for a then-record $450 million from former owner Chris Cohan. The group has also agreed to finance — for an estimated $1 billion — a new arena, the Chase Center, in the San Francisco Bay Area to open at the start of the 2019-20 season. Since the group’s purchase, the Warriors have won two NBA championships among three consecutive appearances from 2015-2017 and is now worth $2.6 billion, according to a Forbes report in February 2017.
Joe and Kirk Lacob, the Golden State Warriors and Catalyst Sports & Media declined to comment.
Bryce Blum is a regular contributor to ESPN.com/esports but did not participate in this report.