Former COC boss Chris Overholt to lead Toronto e-sports franchise
After leading Canada’s Olympic charge for seven years, Chris Overholt is now looking to help Toronto make its mark on the e-sports map.
Overholt, who stepped down as CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee on Wednesday, has wasted little time resurfacing as president and CEO of OverActive Media which has acquired the rights to bring an Overwatch League franchise to Toronto.
Vancouver is also joining the league, with Canucks Sports & Entertainment chairman Francesco Aquilini at the helm.
There are currently 12 teams: Boston Uprising, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, New York Excelsior and Philadelphia Fusion in the Atlantic Division and Dallas Fuel, Los Angeles Gladiators, Los Angeles Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty and Shanghai Dragons in the Pacific Division.
Other expansion franchises for 2019 are Washington, D.C., Paris, and Chengdu and Hangzhou, China. Atlanta and Guangzhou, China, joined the fold last month.
“The Overwatch League’s inaugural season was a great success,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “This past season alone, fans spent 160 million hours watching the leading Overwatch players in the world compete.
“We are thrilled to add eight new outstanding team owners from Europe, China, and North America to our Overwatch League ownership group. We now have 20 of the very best owners in professional sports.”
The Toronto group is headed by tech entrepreneur Sheldon Pollack, venture capitalist Adam Adamou and the Kimel family led by Michael Kimel as principal owner. Kimel is a co-founder of the Chase Hospitality Group and an investor in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Those already holding Overwatch ownership stakes include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon (New York) and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (L.A. Gladiators), whose sports empire includes Arsenal, the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche and Comcast Spectacor which owns the Philadelphia Flyers (Philadelphia Fusion).
The original cost of a franchise was pegged at US$20 million with reports suggesting the next round would go for a minimum of $35 million.
The London Spitfire won the inaugural league championship — and $1 million — in July, defeating Philadelphia 3-0 at a soldout Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Philadelphia collected $400,000 as runner-up.
The “Grand Finals” were streamed worldwide via Twitch, in China on ZhanQi TV, NetEase CC, and Panda TV, and broadcast to U.S. audiences on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and Disney XD, along with a highlights show the next day on ABC.
The estimated global average minute audience across both days was 861,205.