Richard Lewis: Leaked email suggests relationship between Astralis and RFRSH had broken down, talks of developing a CS:GO league

Richard Lewis
RFRSH Entertainment / Astralis

On the 12th July, HLTV published a story that announced that hugely successful Danish CS:GO team Astralis would be splitting from their parent company RFRSH. The announcement came after a long period of public criticism in regards to the nature of the relationship between company and team. Many felt that the parent company’s insistence on having the team attend their own events, The Blast, which have a more casual format than most CS:GO tournaments on the circuit, had contributed to Astralis slipping from being the undisputed number one team in the world down to a questionable third place.

Now an internal email obtained by Dexerto suggests that this situation had led to a breakdown in the relationship between players and that they had been keen to part ways with the organisation for some time.

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While the report on seemed to draw quotes from the email, this was because they were sent only specific details by RFRSH rather than the full email itself. The email, sent company wide just prior to the report on HLTV, was signed by Nikolaj Nyholm, the founder and CEO of RFRSH.

Astralis and RFRSH had been looking to part ways for a while.

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“We must also recognize that the promise we gave two years ago – to, after a build-up phase, separate ownership of competition and team – is about ripe. The Astralis players have, as you all know, felt this on their social media streams and I have no doubt that it has affected them since Miami.” it reads.

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The email also explicitly stated that this decision comes after Astralis had extended their contracts until 2021. Any investors would be acquiring the “majority shareholding” held by RFRSH, which suggests that the players will still retain the piece of equity that they currently hold.

The split came after Astralis had extended their contracts to 2021, but the email suggests players can keep any shares they have.

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Also contained within the email was RFRSH’s intent to create their own league in 2020. It’s not clear from the scarce details contained within the document whether this will be in addition to The Blast or another project that run alongside it but this isn’t the first time RFRSH have talked about such a project.

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Previous reporting suggests that prior to the creation of The Blast tournament circuit the original plan was to create a league with multiple teams that were all under the RFRSH umbrella, with players holding small amounts of equity in each of the teams by way of an incentive to come aboard.

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Finally, the email implies that RFRSH believe that the people who have raised conflict of interest concerns or been critical of the way that the Astralis team has been leveraged to add extra value to The Blast events are “trolls.”

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The email states that they will be working with the endemic press to put these supposed “trolls” “to rest.”

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The email in full

Dear colleagues,

Yesterday we extended the contracts through 2021 with the five Astralis players and coach Danny. Thank you Nick, Kasper and Jakob for leading these negotiations during an exhausting five months, and Leo for being a sanity stop gap on the commercial terms. We can all be proud to have created a world-class team with a truly unique infrastructure around it!

As part of these signatures, we are also committing to separating Astralis and BLAST further. As we look to 2020 and the possible development of a league, we must also recognize that the promise we gave two years ago – to, after a build-up phase, separate ownership of competition and team – is about ripe. The Astralis players have, as you all know, felt this on their social media streams and I have no doubt that it has affected them since Miami.

This of course will over time mean a larger separation of roles internally, as discussed at standups and town halls in the past months. The BLAST and Teams product/performance teams are already fully separated, but we will during the next months be taking steps to make other roles clearer and dedicated to either BLAST or the teams. No decisions have been taken and we will be working with those of you holding dual roles in after the vacations to make this a seamless exercise.

Furthermore, this also means that we have started the first conversations with interested investors to acquire the majority shareholding of Astralis currently held by those also involved in BLAST, thus completing our committed separation at a shareholder level as well.

Steen and I will also start addressing this commitment actively in the media, initially in the endemic landscape, hopefully, at least for a while, putting the trolls to rest.

We have created something very special in esports across BLAST, Astralis and Origen, and we should be proud of this ahead of the separation – and the parallel – futures that each of these businesses will see.

Feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions. Good luck to all those in LA!

Best, Nikolaj

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About The Author

Richard Lewis is a veteran, award-winning British esports journalist, with over a decade of experience covering the biggest scandals and uncovering the inner workings of esports. He has been recognized for his contribution to esports with a lifetime achievement award in 2020. You can find Richard on Twitter at @RLewisReports.