Esports company 100 Thieves announced today that it is entering the Call of Duty League (CDL) and will compete under the name the Los Angeles Thieves, confirming a leak first reported by Dexerto last week. It is acquiring the OpTic Gaming CDL slot from Immortals Gaming Company, confirmed by IGC chief executive Ari Segal in a separate announcement.
Terms of the purchase weren’t disclosed, but 100 Thieves COO John Robinson called the investment “significant,” noting that franchise values have held up since Activision Blizzard set the buy-in cost for the city-based league at $25 million in February 2019.
LA Thieves is the second franchise for 100 Thieves, which paid $13 million for a League of Legends Champions Series (LCS) team in 2018.
A year ago, 100 Thieves founder and CEO Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, a retired Call of Duty player whose name is synonymous with the game, said in a video that 100 Thieves had passed on a franchise because of the cost, although no franchises were available in its home city. Setting up in a new city would be so expensive it would jeopardize the business, said Haag, now 28 years old.
At the time, 100 Thieves had raised $60 million through two rounds of funding from investors including Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, Scooter Braun and Drake but was tied up building a 15,000-square-foot media production and gaming facility in Los Angeles and focusing on its branded apparel business, which the company was founded on in 2017.
“It was a painful experience having a huge Call of Duty fan base and Nadeshot not being able to participate in the community as if we owned a franchise,” Robinson said. “We could tweet anything out, and the response from our followers was always: ‘Great, but when are you going to get back into Call of Duty?’”
Robinson said they watched the inaugural CDL season closely from the sidelines, impressed by how easily the league pivoted during the pandemic from city-based to online-only events. When he and Haag caught wind that the OpTic Gaming slot was possibly available, they decided to give it another look.
What they found was that they could easily move into an LA-based team and could change the name to reflect their brand, one of the most iconic in COD—options initially unavailable to them. They also finally had concrete information from the inaugural season to hang their hats on, including a YouTube rights broadcast agreement and record viewership for the CDL Championship. The event peaked at more than 330,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed COD esports event ever.
They also saw longevity in the 17-year-old title after the successful launch of Call of Duty’s Warzone in March, which boasted 60 million new players in its first two months and a mobile version that has been downloaded over 300 million times since its launch a year ago.
“Last year we would have been making a lot of bets and without full knowledge of the economics,” Robinson said about changing their minds to enter the CDL. “With the data we are seeing, we are anticipating multiple millions of dollars in revenue increase next year just from this. The math works for us now.”
While Haag has been playing Warzone for the past year, Robinson said he’s not coming out of retirement. Instead, 100 Thieves will keep the OpTic CDL team intact—a homecoming for players Austin “Slasher” Liddicoat and Kenny “Kuavo” Williams—but under their new LA Thieves name, with a new branded black and red logo and crest that complements the 100T logo.
The deal signals a shift for Segal and IGC, which acquired OpTic last June through the purchase of its former parent, Infinite Esports & Entertainment, and has reportedly sold the rights to the brand name back to founder and gaming legend Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez, currently co-CEO of esports company NRG. Forbes estimates that deal is worth under $10 million. Rodriguez is reportedly looking to rebrand the company’s existing CDL franchise, the Chicago Huntsmen, with the OpTic name.
According to sources close to the company, IGC is also looking to sell the Los Angeles Valiant, an Overwatch League (OWL) franchise it acquired in 2018 for $20 million. If it is sold, that would leave IGC with only its League of Legends franchise. A year ago, the company was projecting revenue would double annually thanks to its position as the only U.S. company competing in each of the three major franchise esports leagues.
I spent the first half of my life trying to be an athlete so I could become the second woman after Mary Lou Retton to appear on the front of a Wheaties box. I failed at
I spent the first half of my life trying to be an athlete so I could become the second woman after Mary Lou Retton to appear on the front of a Wheaties box. I failed at that, and softball, basketball, volleyball, track, ice skating and cheerleading in the process. Looking back, the only thing amazing about my persistent pursuit of sporting glory was my lack of self-awareness. I only ever made a team after my second time trying out, when I showed up the next year with my much more athletic younger sister. (True story: she played as my proxy on Forbes’ softball team one season.) After my closest attempt at sporting success came in a spelling bee (thank you ESPN for televising and giving that sport cred), I finally decided to take the advice of all those coaches who told me I had the brains and benchwarmer’s big mouth better suited for sideline competition. Now after studying business at Drexel University and journalism at NYU, I compete for bylines, primarily writing about the business of sports. As for my sporting endeavor, I decided to focus on the one where I only compete with myself: running. I can be seen crossing the finish line of my front door celebrating my first place victory a few mornings a week…then eating a bowl of Wheaties, because “that’s what big girls eat.”
100 Thieves, Call of Duty, Matthew Haag, Esports, OpTic Gaming Los Angeles
World news – US – Esports Leader 100 Thieves And Nadeshot Return To Call Of Duty With LA Thieves Franchise