Overwatch League Adding Toronto Franchise

By Community | August 15, 2018

The Overwatch League is poised to add an esports franchise in Toronto for the second OWL season starting on September 9.

Activision Blizzard, publisher of games such as Call of Duty and Starcraft, is undergoing final negotiations with a group led by Canadian entrepreneur Michael Kimel to sell a Toronto slot in the Overwatch League, league sources told ESPN.

Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues CEO Pete Vlastelica told German financial paper Handelsblatt in May that the plan was to sell six OWL slots across North America, Europe and Asia-Oceania. Deals are now in place, or near, for Atlanta, Guangzhou, Paris and Toronto. That leaves two more in the next three weeks.

The league is reportedly finalizing a deal for Paris with McCourt Global, Los Angeles-based parent company of Ligue 1 club Olympique de Marseille, headed by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

The family of Stan Kroenke, owner of Premier League club Arsenal as well as the NFL Los Angeles Rams and NBA Dever Nuggets, already owns an OWL team.

Other Overwatch franchise owners already include New England Patriots (NFL) ownership The Kraft Group, New York Mets (MLB) sister company Sterling VC, and Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) parent Comcast Spectacor.

The new Toronto slot is expected to sell for $35 million, ESPN said. In the first season, the league sold its 12 franchises for $20 million each.

At the beginning of this month, the league confirmed selling franchises to Atlanta Esports Ventures, a group co-funded by Georgia-based conglomerate Cox Enterprises, and Guangzhou, China, to Guangzhou Long-Lions parent company Nenking Group.

“After thrilling fans with an amazing Grand Finals at the Barclays Center, we’re excited to follow that up by expanding the Overwatch League next season,” said Vlastelica. “We’re pleased to add the Atlanta and Guangzhou teams to the ownership group, and we look forward to bringing the league to even more fans across both regions in 2019.”

“We know Atlanta and Guangzhou have deeply engaged fan communities and we can’t wait to unveil their teams,” said Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer “As the league continues to grow, we’re looking forward to seeing more talented pros in action as more roster spots open up.”

“The esports phenomenon is only getting bigger and the Overwatch League is at the centre of the excitement,” said Dallas Clement, chief financial officer of Cox Enterprises. “Atlanta has some of the most passionate fans in the world—and now, we get to bring this energy to the Overwatch League. We are thrilled to help lead the evolution of esports by building a team in our hometown.”

“We are so excited to bring an Overwatch League team to Guangzhou,” said Zhong Naixiong, chairman of the Nenking Group. “The Nenking Group and the Long Lions have deep roots in this region, and we can’t wait to represent our city on the world stage and make our fans proud.”