North American esports organization FlyQuest has changed ownership for the first time since it was founded in 2017. They have been acquired by the Viola family, the owners of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment which is the parent company of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.
As part of the deal, Sunrise will now also own FlyQuest’s slot in the North American League Championship Series slot (LCS), the franchised league for Riot Games’ League of Legends.
Wesley Edens, the co-owner of Milwaukee Bucks and Fortress Investment Group sold FlyQuest to Sunrise for an undisclosed sum.
Viola committed to building FlyQuest’s existing brand
“We are excited about the future of the esports industry, and we were drawn to FlyQuest’s culture and commitment to playing for a greater purpose,” said Michael Viola, president of the Viola family office.
He also expressed his gratitude to FlyQuest’s former owner the Edens family, as well as LCS Commissioner Jackie Felling, Riot Games, and FlyQuest CEO Michael Choi for their “support and energy throughout this entire process”.
Rather than uprooting its existing structure, Sunrise intends to focus more on “building on the solid foundation that FlyQuest and their dedicated staff have worked so hard to achieve.” He added, “We are excited to lead FlyQuest in its next chapter as a mission-driven organization that competes at the highest level both in North America and on the world stage.”
Michael Choi to remain CEO
The acquisition is expected to go into effect immediately, with no major personnel changes involved. This means Michael Choi, who was recently appointed to CEO after the illustrious Tricia Sugita stepped down ahead of the LCS Summer to join rivals Cloud9, will remain in his role.
Michael Choi said, “I am thrilled for the opportunity to work with the Violas to build a bright future for FlyQuest. Together, we’re committed to the competitive success of all of our rosters, current and future, and through this partnership, I believe we’ll be able to usher in a new era for FlyQuest, one that furthers our mission of Showcasing Greatness, both competitively and in the way we serve the greater good.”
FlyQuest’s first roster in 2017 consisted of a former Cloud9 LCS Challenger League team, who were promoted to the LCS through a relegation match. Along with League of Legends, FlyQuest also expanded into Super Smash Bros. Melee back in 2021.
Which sports organizations have invested in esports?
Sunrise isn’t the first traditional sports brand to invest in an esports company, rather they’ve just joined the trend that’s been ongoing for years. The NHL is generally underrepresented in this category, but Sunrise’s foray into the esports market is likely just the beginning.
But they aren’t entirely alone in this respect, because other NHL teams, particularly the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders have dabbled in esports investments before too.
NRG Esports, which owns Chicago Huntsmen and San Francisco Shock, was launched by Andy Miller, co-owner of the Sacramento Kings. The parent company of the Washington Capitals, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owns the Overwatch League’s Washington Justice, as well as a stake in Team Liquid.
Major athletes too have taken the initiative to found their own esports org, for instance David Beckham’s launch of Guild Esports, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith’s Diverge Esports, as well as Golden State Warriors’ superstar Steph Curry’s investment in TSM.
FlyQuest’s eco-friendly initiatives
Ever since 2020, FlyQuest have cultivated their persona as an environmentally conscious org with a push toward sustainability and clean, green living.
Their “TreeQuest” initiative involved the planting of over 10,000 trees, while another program focused on donations for solar energy initiatives. FlyQuest’s most recent campaign, TreeQuest x Priceless Planet Coalition, was during the 2022 LCS season. They partnered with Mastercard as part of this initiative to plant trees for in-game goals, and eventually ended up with 7,777 trees.
This LCS Summer wasn’t a particularly memorable one for FlyQuest. They qualified for the playoffs as sixth seed, but were knocked out by TSM in the first round of the loser’s bracket.