Rainbow Six champs DarkZero deny conflict of interest with Raven investment - Dexerto
Business

Rainbow Six champs DarkZero deny conflict of interest with Raven investment

Published: 26/Oct/2020 18:18

by Adam Fitch

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DarkZero Esports respond to conflict of interest concerns after Dexerto found documents revealing they’ve invested in merchandise company Raven.

Despite declaring themselves as partners in the public domain, it has not been announced publicly that DarkZero had acquired an ownership stake in the merchandise company until now.

DarkZero compete in Rainbow Six Siege, recently placing first in the North American Six August Major and Season 1, Stage 2 of the North American League — results that arguably position the team as the best in their region.

Raven produces and sells merchandise for partner teams Excel Esports, Rogue, Spacestation Gaming, and Tribe Gaming. DarkZero are also listed as a partner on their website.

DarkZero Esports Raven Sleeve
DarkZero
DarkZero Esports has a merch line available for purchase with Raven.

On April 27, Raven published on their site that they had raised $1.4m in a seed funding round with a “US-based private equity fund.” The fund’s identity was not revealed in the blog post, nor had there been any public declaration of ownership beyond company records on Companies House — the United Kingdom’s official registrar.

You had to have purposefully gone seeking these documents to find DarkZero’s involvement in Raven.

In a confirmation statement published to Companies House dated July 22, it’s revealed that DarkZero Esports LLC owns 6666 ordinary shares in the company. Raven’s managing director Samuel Wells owns 8500 ordinary shares, making the North American team the second-largest shareholder.

Other shareholders include Adam Cooper and Robert Loveday, Raven personnel who both hold 750 ordinary shares each. DarkZero’s CEO Zach Matula and director of operations Robert Stamey were both appointed as directors of Raven on April 24, according to documents.

Conflict of interest?

Dexerto contacted Wells to ask why DarkZero’s position in Raven had not been declared in the initial announcement, nor on social media or their website. He replied: “As long-term partners, DZ took a minority share in Raven to grow their ecosystem as an esports organisation which in turn allows Raven to grow and expand as an endemic esports apparel brand. All information is readily available in the company registrar.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with DarkZero not declaring their ownership interest in Raven, but it raises conflict of interest concerns such as them gaining access to information about Raven’s partner orgs that they otherwise wouldn’t be privy to. DarkZero and Raven partner Spacestation Gaming both compete in North American Rainbow Six Siege, for example.

DarkZero’s Matula responded to Dexerto’s request for comment on the investment, why it had not been announced to their fans, and conflict of interest concerns.

“DarkZero has a minority financial interest in Raven and this has never been something that we have attempted to conceal and is even a matter of public record,” he said. “If the investment is of interest to the public we would be thrilled to have Dexerto readers be aware that DarkZero is proud to have invested in the most innovative esports apparel brand in the world!”

People having ownership stakes in multiple companies is nothing new and there have been plenty of concerns voiced surrounding conflicts of interest — even in esports.

Examples include OpTic Gaming founder Hector Rodriguez used to be a shareholder in Dexerto and was declared as such in relevant articles, ESPN covers esports and their owners, Disney, are also investors in Team Liquid’s parent company aXiomatic, and Valve has had to issue multiple orders to resolve such conflicts in Counter-Strike. Earlier this October, it was unearthed that the CEO of Better Collective, the parent company of CS:GO news site HLTV, is also a co-owner of Astralis.

Business

Caster speaks out about G-Loot’s late payments despite $56m investment

Published: 25/Nov/2020 17:49 Updated: 25/Nov/2020 17:57

by Adam Fitch

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Mark ‘Boq’ Wilson, an esports commentator, has spoken out against tournament organizer G-Loot due to alleged late payments.

Over July 3-5, G-Loot operated the Trovo Challenge — a $10,000 event for Riot Games’ new shooter Valorant — on behalf of the live streaming platform. For the North American arm of the competition, Boq was hired to cast alongside Leigh ‘Deman’ Smith, Alex ‘Vansilli’ Nguyen, and David ‘SIMO’ Rabinovitch.

Weeks after the event wrapped up, complaints were posted on Twitter regarding G-Loot’s tardiness in paying for the work fulfilled. Dexerto learned that the casters agreed on a Net 60 payment term, meaning they should be paid within 60 days of fulfilling their duties.

G-Loot don’t appear to be short of cash, having raised an investment what they describe as “one of the largest esports fundraisers globally” of $56m in October 2020. While this is indeed after the event, in which it’s possible they didn’t have a lot of money prior to securing the investment, they’re now looking to grow their player base and optimize their service. Players and casters are still allegedly going unpaid despite said agreements, however.

Trovo Challenge Valorant
Trovo
G-Loot were responsible for the competitive operations of the event.

Vansilli publicly revealed that he invoiced the tournament organizer on July 9 and was clearly disgruntled on October 1 when sharing that he was yet to be paid. They stated that he may have to wait until October 23 to receive payment, which is weeks after the agreed term.

Vansilli confirmed to Dexerto at the beginning of November that the payment had finally been sent, but that’s still not the case for Boq.

As of November 25, he has been waiting for 143 days to be paid. He spoke with Dexerto about his experience with G-Loot, the struggles of trying to get the money that’s owed to him, and the typical circumstances casters have to operate within to get hired for events.

The Payment Challenge

“My experience with G-Loot has almost been no experience,” Boq told Dexerto. “They’ve been quiet, unresponsive, and unwilling to work with us to get things resolved. Everything has been on their timetable, not ours. They were very sporadic with responses, an email would come once every 20 or so days and they’d point out an issue then we’d hear from them again 20 days later.

“It’s clear that they don’t really value talent; forcing us to jump through hoops and giving us crazy dates, far in advance, that related to funding rounds and giving us the run around in general. I am still actively pursuing payment. I’ve given them everything that I was told was needed and they said payment was going to be sent.”

One of the major problems across many esports titles, from the top tier of competition down to amateur events, is the loose use of contracts for broadcast talent. Agreements are made through platforms like Twitter and Discord, with talent being reluctant to request for arrangements to be made official for fear of seeming ‘difficult to work with’ and potentially losing out on future opportunities.

“Like many situations, I did not receive a contract,” he said. “It’s pretty common that I don’t get a contract for an event and if I do, I’m actually blown away by the preparedness of the talent manager. I’ve signed contracts after an event has concluded and had to wait on contracts to send invoices before. It’s definitely common that I don’t get a contract, it’s all verbal or a Twitter DM. Once the flight is booked for a LAN event at least there’s a guarantee, but online there are no guarantees.”

There’s an emerging topic among freelancers in esports regarding the application of late fees to invoices, theoretically deterring tournament organizers from either paying late or not at all by charging them extra for any delay. As of now, there are often no repercussions for such actions and that again is due to the leverage these companies possess according to Boq.

“It’s hard for talent to enforce late fees because the concern is that they just won’t use you again in the future, they’ll be frustrated because you’ve enforced a rule,” he said. “We don’t have as much leverage or power as them. There are a million casters out there who all want to work and get these gigs so it doesn’t matter how large your brand is, ultimately you can easily damage your name beyond repair. The smaller your name is, the easier that is to do.

“Tournament organizers have this tremendous power over some of the smaller names in broadcasting because they don’t have the leverage to get the payment that they’re due. This happens constantly when you look at Tier 2 or 3 scenes and in collegiate and high school when tournament organizers pay late, or at all, and the only option that these people have is to go public.

On why he has chosen to speak out against G-Loot, and why a better system with increased accountability for all parties needs to be put in place, the caster explained that this is more than wanting money — it makes esports a worse place and damages the industry as a whole.

Marq Boq Wilson Caster
DreamHack
Boq is best known for casting shooters such as Counter-Strike and, more recently, Valorant.

“It destroys the ecosystem that’s in place,” said Boq. “It’s important that we don’t allow tournament organizers that practice those behaviors to continue to survive because the ones that don’t are competing against them and sometimes losing. I hate to see companies that raise millions of dollars because I know they can crush a lot of the competition, some who actually do pay their talent but perhaps don’t have the same budget so they can’t increase their exposure with better hires.”

While other broadcast talent may now have been paid for their work on the event, that is not the case for Boq. Who knows if there are others out there across titles and tournament organizers that don’t feel as if they can speak up and still get hired going forward?

Dexerto has contacted G-Loot for comment.