League of Legends developer Riot Games says Sam Bankman-Fried’s affiliation with the game hurts the company’s image (through Molly White). In a filing in FTX’s bankruptcy suit, Riot Games is asking the court to terminate the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) sponsorship deal with the collapsed crypto exchange, citing irreversible “reputational damage”.
Bankman-Fried’s love of gaming came into the limelight after the fall of FTX, and he became infamous for playing League of Legends (and other games) during meetings. In a now-deleted profile of Bankman-Fried posted by venture capital firm Sequoia, co-founder Neeraj Arora says he even played League of Legends during their first meeting via Zoom.
The former billionaire has not been shy about his interest in League of Legends, either (even if he is admittedly bad at the match). He wrote about playing League in a long thread on Twitter posted last year saying, “I play a lot more than you would expect from someone who routinely alternates sleep versus work. Why? Well, there is one answer, and it is obvious. The most universal thing about LoL is that everyone who plays it says they wish they didn’t.
“Footage of Mr. Bankman-Fried playing League of Legends was shown alongside text describing his cavalier attitude to investor meetings and irresponsibility with corporate funds,” the filing reads. “These images created a public narrative that Mr. Bankman-Fried’s interest in League of Legends, once relatable and human, was now reckless and youthful.”
According to the filing, FTX still owes Riot Games $6.25 million for time spent as an LCS sponsor in 2022, but that will increase to $12.875 million next year. These payments will “escalate each year through 2028,” bringing the total value of the deal to approximately $96 million. In addition to alleged damage to its brand, Riot says it wants to end the deal now so it can replace FTX with yet another crypto sponsor for the 2023 season.
“The reputational damage done to Riot cannot be undone,” the filing reads. “FTX cannot go back in time and introduce corporate controls for the custody of customer money that has now disappeared from the public eye.”