The Philadelphia 76ers became the first U.S. sports franchise to make the push into esports Monday, purchasing Team Dignitas and Team Apex, with plans to merge them under the Dignitas name.
Sixers owner Josh Harris announced the partnership in a press release on the team's official website:
The esports industry is primed for incredible growth and we are thrilled to become an owner of such a storied franchise as Team Dignitas. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games. We see our entrance into esports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in esports as a whole.
Financial terms of the agreement have not been made public. Team Dignitas is one of the long-standing powers of the esports world, while Apex is a rising figure. The team will compete in the League of Legends Championship Series.
No other American sports franchise has ever purchased controlling rights in an esports team. German soccer club FC Schalke 04 previously purchased a League of Legends team in the European Championship Series.
General manager of Team Dignitas Michael O'Dell said partnering with an NBA team should make the club more attractive to the world's top gamers:
This is a landmark day in esports history and for this franchise. Entering into a partnership with such a strong organization will give us an undeniable advantage in attracting the world’s best players and an opportunity to compete at the highest level. Our connection to the legendary Philadelphia 76ers brand and business organization will be a differentiating factor for Team Dignitas as we enter the next phase of our development.
Team Dignitas began in 2003 during the infancy of the esports boom with the merger of two Battlefield 1942 teams. It has since acquired a reputation of being one of the most highly skilled esports franchises in the world, and acquiring Apex will continue to boost its roster of stars. Team Apex has been a rising figure in League of Legends competition, including a seventh-place finish in this year's Championship Series.
"I’m proud to be a part of this revolutionary project with two legendary organizations. I’m also excited to bring a new level of support and infrastructure to my current and future players. I feel that it will soon be a great time to be a Dignitas fan," said Team Dignitas vice president and general manager Michael Slan.
It's unclear whether the Sixers or Team Dignitas will use this purchase as a cross-branding opportunity. Harris and his partners also own the NHL's New Jersey Devils and English Premier League team Crystal Palace.
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