VK confirms sale of esports org Virtus.pro in seven-figure deal


Russian technology giant VK has disclosed the amount it received for the sale of esports organization Virtus.pro in 2022.

VK revealed in the company’s 2022 annual report, published earlier this week, that in Q4 it sold Virtus.pro in a deal worth 174 million rubles (approximately $2.8 million at the time of the announcement).

The change of ownership in Virtus.pro was announced in September 2022, when Armenian businessman Aram Karamanukyan was unveiled as the new CEO of Virtus.pro and an investor in the company. Very little was known about his background other than his prior experience in the construction business and hospitality industry.

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In an exclusive interview with Dexerto days after the announcement, Mr. Karamanukyan confirmed that the transaction had been “made on market terms”, rejecting the notion that it was merely a scheme to bypass the sanctions placed on Virtus.pro by numerous tournament organizers since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Virtus.pro was targeted by tournament organizers due to the alleged ties between its parent company, ESforce, and the Russian government. In 2018, ESforce was acquired by VK, then known as Mail.Ru Group Limited. Since December 2021, Russian state-run insurer Sogaz has a controlling stake in VK, with the company being included on the European Union’s February 28 sanctions list imposed on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

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For over a year now, Virtus.pro’s CS:GO team have had to compete as ‘Outsiders’ due to ESforce’s ties to the Kremlin. The situation has been different for Virtus.pro’s Dota 2 squad, however. The team initially had to play as ‘Outsiders’, but they’ve been able to represent Virtus.pro in all competitions since Mr. Karamanukyan joined the organization.

The legitimacy of the Virtus.pro sale process has come under question, especially since Nikolai Petrossian, a former ESforce chief, replaced Mr. Karamanukyan as the organization’s CEO in December 2022. Many saw this as confirmation that ESforce and Virtus.pro are still connected in some way.

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The future of Virtus.pro’s teams

It remains unclear at this point if ESL and BLAST will allow Outsiders to compete in their CS:GO tournaments as Virtus.pro. In September, Dexerto revealed that both tournament organizers were looking into the leadership changes in the Russian organization.

Contacted by Dexerto, ESL said that the review process is still underway. “We have been reviewing the recent changes in the structure and ownership of Virtus.pro and are currently in the process of finalizing this review. If any announcements come out of this, then these will be made in due course.”

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BLAST declined to comment when contacted by Dexerto.

Virtus.pro’s CS:GO squad is currently playing (under the name Outsiders) in ESL Pro League Season 17, in Malta. The team is through to the tournament’s Round of 12 after placing second in Group A.

Should ESL continue to ban Virtus.pro from its tournaments, the organization’s Dota 2 squad might have to revert to the Outsiders name temporarily if it qualifies for ESL One Berlin Major 2023. The event will take place from April 26 to May 7, with 18 teams in attendance.

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In addition to their main CS:GO and Dota 2 teams, Virtus.pro have an academy and a women’s CS:GO squads, as well as Rainbow Six, PUBG Mobile and Warface rosters.

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