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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 16, 2017 5 years ago

Investor goes outside the rink

Jeff Vinik ventures into e-sports franchise.

The burgeoning industry of e-sports, or professional video-gaming (yes, that's a thing) got a big boost recently from a star of the Tampa region's real-life sports scene, Jeff Vinik.

The owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and lead developer of a 53-acre, $3 billion redevelopment of southern downtown Tampa, Vinik has invested in aXiomatic, parent company of e-sports franchise Team Liquid. Los Angeles-based aXiomatic, according to a statement, was founded in September 2016 “with the goal of bringing the resources and resourcefulness of its ownership group to the professionalization of esports.”

Terms of Vinik's investment weren't disclosed.

Vinik, the release adds, is now a co-chairman of the company alongside of pro-sports titans Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis. Guber, a Hollywood producer, entrepreneur and chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, co-owns the NBA's Golden State Warriors and Major League baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers. Leonsis is the majority owner and CEO of the company that owns the NHL's Washington Capitals and the NBA's Washington Wizards.

“Jeff has a brilliant track record in identifying and maximizing investment opportunities as well as building professional sports teams,” says aXiomatic CEO Bruce Stein in the statement. “Jeff also has a respected friendship with Peter and Ted, so from a fit standpoint we couldn't imagine a better partner.”

aXiomatic says it has more than 50 investors, outside Vinik, Guber and Leonsis. The list includes Magic Johnson, AOL founder Steve Case and Tony Robbins. “I've watched the growth of the e-sports industry for a number of years and the opportunity to become involved with the impressive group already assembled at aXiomatic is the ideal way for me to make an impact,” says Vinik in the statement.

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