David Beckham's esports team is planning an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange to fund its expansion as it attempts to take advantage of the surging popularity of online gaming.
London-based Guild Esports, which was set up only a year ago, plans to raise £20 million ($39.1m) to pay for the recruitment of up to 20 professional gamers by the end of next year and invest further in the business.
It is aiming for a valuation of £50m, according to one person with direct knowledge of the plan, a sharp drop on a previous target of £100m. The fall takes into account market volatility and discussions with investors and advisers in recent months. Guild Esports raised £5m in a previous private funding round over the summer.
The former Manchester United and England football star owns a significant minority stake in Guild through DB Ventures, his personal investment vehicle.
Roughly 40 per cent of the company's shares will be available through the listing, according to another person briefed on the plans.
The IPO will test investor appetite for the growing esports sector, which has gained traction among people — especially men — under the age of 35.
Carleton Curtis, executive chairman of Guild and a former executive at Activision Blizzard, the video game publisher, said part of the appeal of going public was the potential for fans to buy shares in the company.
Audiences watching gamers play online grew during lockdown as traditional sports were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Esports businesses are trying to capitalise on the increased attention.
Esports are watched by almost 500m people, according to analytics provider Newzoo, and generated revenue of close to US$1 billion ($1.5b) in 2019.
"We see esports as being in the same conversation and rivalling many of the traditional major sports in a matter of five years," said Curtis, who is targeting 1m registered fans within the first 12 months.
Guild's gamers will compete in Fortnite, CS: Go, Rocket League and Fifa. Winning prize money in tournaments is one potential source of revenue for Guild but the company also hopes to benefit from Beckham's fame to generate sponsorship revenue. It is aiming to secure £5m of revenue from sponsorship deals within a year and £1m from merchandise sales.
Curtis believes esports will come to be dominated by an exclusive group of professional teams. Guild plans to invest in a scouting network and training academy for gamers.
"It's going to take a lot of capital to get us there but we're confident we can be in that conversation in a matter of years," he said.
Existing shareholders, including Beckham, who is also co-owner of Inter Miami, the latest addition to North America's Major League Soccer, will retain their shares.
Zeus Capital and Mirabaud Securities are the company's brokers and bookrunners on the IPO.
Written by: Samuel Agini
© Financial Times