Black Ridge Acquisition has agreed a deal to purchase the World Poker Tour (WPT) Enterprises and Allied Esports International assets from Ourgame International Holdings and merge the two businesses to form a new entity.
The combined company will operate as Allied Esports Entertainment (AESE) and focus on providing in-person experiences, multi-platform content and interactive services across poker and video gaming, catering to an audience estimated to be as large as 2.2bn people.
The deal is worth up to $213.8m (£168.9m/€186.7m) and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, with the new business to be listed on the NASDAQ Capital Market Exchange.
The acquirer is a special purpose acquisition company, sponsored by Black Ridge Oil & Gas, and is headquartered in Minnesota. Its director Lyle Berman will become chair of AESE, with Ourgame chief executive Frank Ng taking on the CEO role at the new business.
"In more than 40 years in the gaming and entertainment business, this is the most exciting opportunity I have seen," Berman said. "The capital from the Black Ridge SPAC will be used to expand AESE’s global property network, accelerating their first-mover advantage as the company continues to build a brand that is synonymous with esports.”
Ng will be supported as chief executive by many of the same team he worked with at Ourgame. Eric Yang will serve as vice chairman; Ken DeCubellis as finance chief; David Moon as chief operations officer, and Adam Pliska takes on the role of president.
“This transaction will be transformational for our rapidly expanding company and provide the esports community with a fully capitalized, globally connected esports enterprise capable of producing the volume and breadth of esports entertainment products the industry is increasingly demanding,” Ng said. “By applying WPT’s proven business model to the much bigger, higher-growth global esports business, we are creating an esports entertainment platform that is long-lasting and positioned to capture the esports monetization opportunity.”
The new entity will combine Allied’s network of properties and facilities with WPT’s expertise in live events, content distribution and customer engagement, with a pledge to deliver unparalleled experiences to a global esports audience.
This will include creating original content to share across partner distribution platforms including digital, traditional and social media, as well as developing a proprietary online platform to deliver branded entertainment for participants and viewers globally.
WPT Enterprises operates the renowned World Poker Tour, which hosts a series of land-based and online tournaments, supported by a range of assets and television deals. WPT also licenses its brand for third-party events, as well as broadcasting coverage of its tournaments online and through broadcasting partnerships. Hong Kong-based Ourgame acquired WPT from bwin.party in June 2015 in a deal worth $35m.
Allied Esports International, meanwhile, runs a global network of esports properties and content production facilities, such as the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas in Nevada, where the WPT staged four of its Season 16 events. Allied's portfolio also includes a number of affiliated esports arenas, and even specially designed trucks in which competitions can be staged.
Image: World Poker Tour