Esports organization Dignitas has raised $30m (€27m) in new investment, with a Series A funding round led by its controlling shareholders Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Fertitta Entertainment.
HBSE is the parent company of the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, while Fertitta Entertainment owns the NBA Houston Rockets, as well as numerous restaurants and casinos in the United States.
Additional investment has come from financial firm Susquehanna Private Equity Investments, Delaware North – the hospitality company which also owns and operates the NHL team the Boston Bruins and TD Garden, where the Bruins play – and Loud Records founder and hip-hop pioneer Steven Rifkind.
Dignitas has also formed a new parent company, New Meta Entertainment (NME), a digital sports and entertainment company operating in three primary verticals: esports teams, content and marketing, and investments.
Michael Prindiville, previously the Dignitas chief executive, has been named the CEO of New Meta Entertainment. Prindiville spearheaded Dignitas’s June merger with Clutch Gaming, which enabled Dignitas to acquire a League of Legends, League Championship Series (LCS) franchise.
Dignitas – which was acquired by HBSE in September 2016 – also has teams that compete in Rocket League, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros. Melee, SMITE, Apex Legends, and Clash Royale.
Prindiville told SportBusiness: “It’s important to be well-funded in the world of esports, where there are opportunities such as merging to acquire a League of Legends franchise, for example, or having that type of flexibility for other big opportunities that might come our way, such as team or league opportunities. If you’re not well-capitalized, then you won’t be able to take advantage of these opportunities.
“We went to the market to raise capital with a vision that this was bigger than esports and bigger than gaming. The new investors were all very strategically brought in. We are looking to build out content in the confluence of gaming and music, for example, and while there have been a couple of hits here and there no one has been able to develop a meaningful business around it. We believe with guys like Steven Rifkind that we’re going to be able to do that.”
One of the first investments by NME in the technology start-up space has been U.GG, a burgeoning League of Legends coaching platform incubated through the HBSE-owned Sixers Innovation Lab.
“We think that with our ownership group – and their experience and intellect – that we can be stewards for young companies in this digital sports and entertainment space and ultimately shepherd their ambition into this industry,” Prindiville said.
“We will continue to look to invest and be the first call that these young esports and gaming companies make, who are looking to raise capital and investment. Since the investment in U.GG, we have received a number of calls and opportunities around that space.”
In June, Dignitas opened a new headquarters, a 3,000-square-foot gaming and content production studio adjacent to HBSE’s Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. NME now plans to open a similar facility in Los Angeles in 2020.
“There are no other esports organizations in North America that I know of that have the capabilities from a gaming and content perspective in both the LA and New York areas,” Prindiville said. “Everything is very much centralized in LA but I’ve always said New York will be the next hub for esports and gaming and so to have those capabilities on each coast – in addition to capabilities though our ownership in Houston, Boston and Philadelphia – we think that we can provide an unparalleled structure to develop and manage the best talent in esports.”