ESL Gaming Co-CEO Craig Levine breaks down the DreamHack merger


ESL and DreamHack were sister companies under the parent company Modern Times Group (MTG) since 2015. They have increasingly found ways to pool their collective resources for a better, more unified product. Most notably, the 2020 ESL Pro Tour for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was set to feature global events from both brands before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

However, in late September 2020, the companies announced that they had made this union official and merged it under the ESL Gaming umbrella. ESL Co-CEO Craig Levine told esports insider sister brand, The Esports Journal, that the increased cooperation between the companies ultimately led to the merger.

ESL Gaming Co CEO Craig Levine breaks down the DreamHack merger - ESL Gaming Co-CEO Craig Levine breaks down the DreamHack merger
Credit: Helena Kristiansson/ESL Gaming

RELATED: DreamHack and ESL merge under ESL Gaming

“We started to see the obvious success,” he said. “So the logical next step was to say, ‘How can we bring these organizations even closer together now to continue to position ourselves uniquely in the future?'”

It’s important to note that ESL and DreamHack will both continue as separate brands to address their respective audiences and strengths within the esports and gaming ecosystem. ESL focuses more on the competitive side of things with its “Zero-to-Hero” mission, offering competition for everyone from newcomers to the best pro players. DreamHack, meanwhile, will continue its community-centric events and experiences, although there’s plenty of room for crossover.

“We have an amazing talent pool to build a combined organization,” Levine said. “The ‘e’ in ‘eSports’ makes it really distinctive and unique, and having a deep understanding of the DNA of culture and people who understand what eSports and video game culture is, we think shapes us to then figure out how to build that best deal. We now have many talented people coming together under one roof to work towards this common goal. Additionally, we believe very strongly that we are one company, but it is very important that we maintain and continue to invest in and position two independent brands.”

1645204624 102 ESL Gaming Co CEO Craig Levine breaks down the DreamHack merger - ESL Gaming Co-CEO Craig Levine breaks down the DreamHack merger
Photo credit: ESL Gaming

Both the ESL and DreamHack brands date back 20 years or more, and Levine himself has been on the scene as a player, team owner, and organizer for almost two decades. “It was always a group of individuals that we knew each other that just pioneered together,” he said of leading both brands.

Ultimately, the pandemic didn’t force the issue, Levine said: There’s been a lot of talk about a potential merger in the five years that the two companies have coexisted under the MTG umbrella. However, the impact of the pandemic meant both companies had less frantic time to evaluate the potential benefits and efficiencies of a merger and the ability to finally execute it.

“It’s slowing down everyone’s business a bit, so all of a sudden they’re not hosting DreamHacks and we’re not running from festival to festival or arena to arena. We can then really sit down and spend time together, understand how we’re creating a common roadmap, and understand how this can become really powerful and beneficial for everyone,” he explained. “It has freed and slowed us to zoom out of our business now that most companies are going through the pandemic and really assessing what the core is, where growth can come from and how we can get there?”

Levine joined ESL in 2014 and was promoted from Chief Strategy Officer to Co-CEO in July, joining Ralf Reichert. Although the first few months in the role of Co-CEO presented unique challenges, Levine is relishing the new opportunity.

“It feels like dog years, I guess. I’m super excited,” he said. “As we continue to evolve into a global company and organization, this was the natural next step. I really enjoyed the first few months in this role. We have great people. I think we are so uniquely positioned and I’m honored to truly lead this organization through these globally challenging times. It’s a lot of work with the team thinking about what the right growth drivers and priorities are and how to really create a great place to work as an employer to continue to attract and retain the best minds in the business.”

Read the full version of this article in Issue 7 of Esports Journal.

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