WME/IMG's Esports Team Leaves the Hollywood AgencyBy
Tobias Sherman-led group helped create order in industry
Sherman says he plans to ‘continue track records of firsts’
The four-person team charged with building an esports portfolio for WME/IMG left the company en masse, a blow to the sports-and-entertainment giant’s nascent effort to dominate competitive video gaming.
Led by Tobias Sherman, WME/IMG helped create order in an industry that three years ago lacked the regulation, transparency and legitimacy of traditional sports. Market-research company Newzoo estimates that esports will be a $696 million industry in 2017, and may eclipse $1.4 billion by 2020.
“Upon my resignation and that of my team, we will now be able to continue our track record of firsts in a variety of new ways,” Sherman said in an email on Sunday. “I also intend to create and produce more esports programming across TV and digital which is something that would not be possible as an agent.”
Sherman’s team established a professional Counter-Strike league as a joint venture with Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting. The group also became a trusted adviser to investors and brands looking to get a piece of the growing sport. When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired an esports team, WME/IMG facilitated the deal. In March, the team helped launch Boomeo, WME/IMG’s esports training platform.
Other clients include former NBA player and noted esports investor Rick Fox as well as basketball player Jonas Jerebko.
The departure will affect all of WME/IMG’s esports-related business, said a current employee who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. Without people who are experienced in the business and have the right connections it is difficult to run a successful division, the person said.
“We appreciate all that Tobias contributed to our growth in the esports space and wish him the best in his next chapter,” WME/IMG said in a statement. The agency will continue its relationship with ELeague and plans to hire a replacement for the esports business.
A representative for WME/IMG declined to comment on how big an impact the departures might have. There are other employees who have worked on esports at the company, which is one of the biggest and influential in sports and entertainment, spanning representation, media rights and sponsorship, among other things.
A majority of WME/IMG’s esports division joined the company in 2015 when it purchased Global eSports Management, a consultancy co-founded by Sherman and Min-Sik Ko. Ko was later named ELeague commissioner.