Russian internet company Mail.Ru has acquired ESForce, the parent company of SK Gaming, Virtus.Pro and several other esports ventures, for a sale price of $150 million, sources familiar with the sale told ESPN.
The acquisition is the largest in Russian esports history. ESForce owns esports teams SK Gaming and Virtus.Pro, tournament organizer Epicenter, gambling websites CS:GO and Dota 2 Lounge, Yota Arena and Cybersport and RuHub. The news was first reported by Rambler News Service on Sunday. ESForce did not respond to a request for comment.
ESForce previously invested in Natus Vincere (Na`Vi) but decided to part ways with that team in November, as a result of the World eSports Association (WESA) rule, that will take effect this September, which restrict entities from multiteam ownership. It will have to also cut ties with either Virtus.Pro or SK Gaming before September if both hope to participate in the ESL Pro League and other WESA-regulated tournaments, but that decision has yet to be made, one source said.
ESForce received $100 million in investment in October 2016 from USM Holdings. Rambler News Service reports that the sale will be for 100 percent equity of ESForce, which would mean an exit for USM.
Mail.Ru, which reportedly made RUB 42.741 billion (approximately $753 million) in revenue in 2016, has taken interest in video games before, creating a $100 million investment division -- titled Mail.Ru Games Ventures -- to fund video game development. It also has an esports section on its website. This will be the first time it has made a multimillion-dollar investment specifically in esports.
Mail.Ru has made its fortune by hosting a number of popular sites in Russia. Of all internet conglomerates, Mail.Ru reportedly gains the most traffic in Russia, according to comScore. Its sites include the country's most popular social network VKontakte and its own email hosting platform on Mail.Ru.