The odd man out in the Phoenix Sports Partners portfolio is LeagueSpot, an esports tournament platform designed and developed by Bob’s sons Andrew and Brandon. In March, their company signed an enterprise-level deal with the YMCA, and last year began working with New York’s state colleges and universities, or SUNY, to facilitate state-wide collegiate tournaments. At the beginning in 2017, Bob admits that he really had no clue about esports; the technology and the sector it aimed to serve were alien to him until he went to a sports technology trade event in Michigan and heard people and companies buzzing about it.
“So, I went to the Michigan Sports Business Conference in the fall of 2017 and I literally came in and it seemed like half of the agenda was about esports. I never knew what it was. We were really over there in our capacity as Phoenix Sports guys. We were getting started with this big sports platform, which just turned out to be super successful. And we’d gotten t a lot of traction under our belt. And I came back from that conference and I just happened to ask my son, Andrew, who was a software developer who was working for his brother, Brandon. And I just said, ‘Have you ever heard of this esports thing?’ And he just looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, ‘Dad, are you kidding me? This is what I do.’”
Andrew said that best way he could describe his reaction to his father’s question about esports would be if he asked him in return, ‘Have you heard about the Beatles?'”
Bob started doing a lot of research on the sector at that point. He found himself attending another event, put on by New York-based law firm Herrick that was fully focused on esports – a panel discussion including the Overwatch League franchise slots being auctioned off. Bob recalled panelists saying “there were like 12 franchise slots available, and I think they had 120 bidders. Around 108 of them went home without an esports franchise at the auction, and a lot of them were just people who just came in with money because they just had to have some kind of an investment in a connection with esports.”