Team Liquid has selected five players or content creators close to the organization and invited them to directly invest in the company by buying shares with their own capital.
These new co-owners include Super Smash Bros. legend Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma and professional Counter-Strike player Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, both players who have been with Liquid since 2015. WNBA star Aerial Powers, professional poker player and streamer Alexander “Lex” Veldhuis, and actor Asa Butterfield are also among the investors.
Liquid co-CEO Steve Arhancet said, via Digiday, that these five individuals were selected by the organization’s management because they closely align with Liquid’s identity and philosophy, while also having significant resources to invest from a financial perspective—meaning this was all on the side of the players and creators, not something worked into their contracts.
“There’s a difference between being awarded equity as a form of compensation, to provide alignment to the organization, versus an elective investment of their own capital into the organization that they’re part of,” Arhancet told Digiday. “I think it speaks volumes to their own decision-making and degree of confidence.”
None of the numbers or ownership stakes were disclosed, but Powers said there was a minimum investment threshold that had to be met, though “it could be more, of course.”
This isn’t the first sign that player or creator-centered investments and ownership expansions have happened in esports. 100 Thieves, for example, added Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter and Jack “CouRage” Dunlop to its ownership group in April.
For Liquid, this provides what the company is calling a “substantial contribution” from some of its biggest names and allows management to bring those creators into more high-level conversations.
“We’re able to go to these individuals, that we know genuinely from a financial perspective, but also that their heart is in our business, to solicit their feedback before making big decisions at the company,” Arhancet told Digiday. “So it’s like joining a consultative team to the leadership here at Team Liquid.”
Likewise, the creators view this as a unique opportunity to invest in the organization that has already invested in them, while also continuing to do their own thing, whether that be competing, creating, or advising.
Powers, as the chair of the Liquid’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, views this as a way in which she and the org are “putting your money where your mouth is” when it comes to equality and equity. Likewise, Hbox views this as a unique opportunity that wouldn’t have been available at a normal job.
“I used to work in engineering, and those companies would offer chances for employees to help their retirement, things like 401ks and all that,” Hungrybox told Digiday. “Well, Liquid being an esports org, they were offering something a lot more unique.”
As esports—and, by extension, the organizations, players, and creators attached to the scene—continue to grow, it’s likely individuals involved with teams will have more opportunities to invest or take ownership in ways similar to this.