RFRSH Entertainment, the esports marketing and media rights company that represents Astralis, Godsent, Heroic and Norse, released a statement Tuesday about the “RFRSH model” and attempted to address concerns about the co-ownership of multiple teams.
While laying out its vision on helping the four Counter-Strike teams build their brands, RFRSH stated that it “may take part ownership of one or more of the teams to secure that the RFRSH model is fully incorporated into the team strategy.”
“Under the RFRSH Model, the players have a minority share in the team and thereby all players are or will be co-owners of their respective teams. Thereby the players will also benefit from the financial success and/or a sale of the team,” the statement on RFRSH’s website read. “We do not see a conflict in multiple team ownership under this model, as each team is and will be its own entity, however, when the teams and brands are fully established, RFRSH will no (longer) have a controlling share or ownership of the teams, brands or orgs.”
RFRSH launched earlier this year, and not long afterward Richard Lewis uncovered that Sunstone Technology Ventures, a company of which RFRSH CEO and founder Nikolaj Nyholm was a partner, holds a stake in Astralis and intimated that RFRSH had stakes in the other three teams. (Astralis CEO Frederik Byskov later said on Reddit that Nyholm left Sunstone before starting RFRSH, but he is still listed on Sunstone’s website as a “venture partner.”
Regardless of RFRSH’s statement, owning stakes in multiple teams at any time is a conflict of interest. It’s worth pointing out the players also own stakes in their respective teams, which could mitigate that conflict, but the situation is still worth monitoring. Conflicts of interest often create the perception of impropriety, regardless of whether or not any actually occurs. In the League of Legends Championship Series, for instance, owners are not permitted to have any stake in more than one team for that exact reason.
RFRSH compared its strategy to that of Major League Soccer in North America, in which the league owns its teams. But talk of a league/franchise format seems to fall in line with another point Lewis made in his video about RFRSH’s eventual attempt to run a tournament circuit.