A former hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical CEO with a checkered past is buying his way into the League of Legends Challenger scene, snatching up top amateur players and laying down some very big promises.
Martin Shkreli formed Retrophin, a New York biopharmaceutical company based out of New York City, in February 2011. After leaving in 2014, he formed Turing Pharmaceuticals, and now the 32-year-old investor and esports fan apparently has his sights set on shaking up the pro League scene in North America.
In his bid to make the LCS, Shkreli has scooped up some well-known North American talent. The team will be captained by former TSM Darkness jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh and will include former Team Fusion members Joshua “ChunkyFresh” Kesrawani and Lawrence “Trance” Amador, as well as solo queue up-and-coming mid laner, Sujal “kt Smurf” Adhikari. Former Fusion Head Coach Rohit “CurryshotGG” Nathani will be managing and coaching the team.
Ritchie “Intense” Ngo and Zachary “Nien” Malhas, who just parted ways with Misfits and Fusion, respectively, are the current frontrunners for the AD carry position. Both are considered to be among the best non-LCS marksmen in the region.
Despite an impressive resume on paper, Shkreli enters the esports scene dogged by allegations of misconduct. While he was still CEO at Retrophin, three company employees were caught using aliases on Twitter to recommend company products even as they suggested short-selling competitors to their followers.
In an SEC filing following his departure, Retrophin detailed a laundry list of alleged misconduct by the former CEO. According to Bloomberg, “Shkreli’s shenanigans involved payouts of millions of dollars and the transfer of hundreds of thousands of shares of Retrophin stock,” behavior that “sparked a wave of civil lawsuits against Retrophin and Shkreli.” The company also revealed that Shkreli was under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office for New York’s Eastern District.
For his part, Shkreli denied the allegations in the SEC filing, calling them “completely false, untrue at best and defamatory at worst” in a post on InvestorsHub.
Still, as Shkreli describes it, he turned Retrophin from “an idea into a $500 million public company in 3 years.” And in a statement to the Daily Dot, he was clear about his lofty ambitions for esports. “Partnering with Rami and Rohit to create a new leader in esports is a tremendous opportunity to change the landscape of competitive gaming as we know it,” Shkreli wrote.
“Armed with strong resources and a commitment to the gaming community, we are uniquely able to provide a long-term home for exceptional gamers. Our organization recognizes the value of leading players, understanding the industry-specific goals and accompanying challenges of professional competitors in this emerging industry. By providing stable and sustainable employment for world-class gamers, we hope to set the industry standard for the relationship between team members and the companies they partner with.”
Charagh, the team’s captain, is best known for his previous endeavors with Enemy eSports, Team Roar, and most recently, Team SoloMid Darkness.
“I’m very confident in this roster because I believe we are all talented enough and dedicated to reach the LCS,” Charagh told the Daily Dot. “I’m very grateful to Martin for giving me this opportunity and I have confidence in this team to succeed.
Charagh’s departure from Enemy and Roar was followed by accusations that he was a difficult and occasionally toxic teammate, a reputation he seems eager to disprove. “I’m determined to prove that those are all just rumours by helping build a strong team environment where my teammates and I can trust each other and grow together,” Charagh said. “I’m really looking forward to the future.”
Nathani was most recently the head coach for Team Fusion, and he’ll be joined by fellow former Fusion members Kesrawani and Amador.
For him, the new team is a chance to refocus after what he calls “out-of-game distractions” at the end of the season hamstringed Team Fusion. “The loss motivated me as well as some of the old Fusion players,” Nathani told the Daily Dot.
After a disappointing finish, ending with a few impressive teamfights by Dignitas support Alan “KiwiKid” Nguyen in Fusion’s relegation loss, “we were literally one pulverize away from the LCS,” Nathani said. This time, however, he’s confident in success. “We will exceed expectations.”
Team officials have yet to clarify whether they plan to qualify for the Challenger Series via the Summer Qualifiers or to buy the spot from Team Fusion.