Recently, it has been discovered that The Esports Observer, a publication dedicated to reporting on the eSports industry, has been caught out on failing to disclose financial ties relating back to an ESL board member.
In a video published by Richard Lewis, it was discovered that the news site had seed investments from BITKRAFT Holding; a company currently owned by ESL supervisory board member, Jens Hilger. As shown on AngelList, BITKRAFT Holding has eSports Business Solutions listed as one of the places to have invested in. As shown on their page as well, eSports Business Solutions currently maintains multiple brands, with The Esports Observer as one of them (making it Business Solutions the parent company, and they share board members between them).
Up until now, The Esports Observer hadn't disclosed these facts when it came to pieces relating to BITKRAFT Holding or their investors. In the video below, Lewis points this out in multiple sample articles, such as an interview with Kim Rom. Rom is a co-founder of Level99, another agency with investments from BITKRAFT Holding.
In an another sample piece, Lewis points out another conflict relating back to Team Reunited; an Overwatch team formed by former Fnatic players. Frederik Kragh Christensen, managing director/co-founder of Team Reunited, had previously worked at BITKRAFT Holding as an investment manager. This information has not yet been disclosed in their article.
But the most interesting thing to note about all this is the owner of BITKRAFT Holding, Jens Hilger. Not only is Hilger a supervisory board member and co-founder of the ESL, but he's also co-owner of G2 Esports, a European Team. Given the ownership of BITKRAFT and G2 Esports, this revelation does raise questions over the potential conflicts that may arise from The Esports Observer.
As shown on his LinkedIn (and the chart below), Hilger had also previously served as Chairman and CEO of ESL. It is believed that Hilger stepped down as ESL CEO to retain his ownership of G2 ESports.
But the issues don't just sit with their investors but also their CEO. About three months ago, the site appointed Christopher Hana as The Esports Observers new CEO. As stated in an interview, Hana had previously co-founded Level99 with Rom. Again, no disclosure of this information was present when The Esports Observer published the Kim Rom interview back in late June (the same month Hana was appointed CEO).
There are also issues with connections to eSports team Fnatic. Christopher Hana had previously served as an account director for Fnatic. While crossing from one side to the other isn't a conflict of interest, it is something that may be worth disclosing. It is also worth nothing that Hilger was recently found to have filed a registration of charge with Swedish team Fnatic's holding company SANNPA. The registration was a business loan and serves as another potential conflict of interest for the entrepreneur.
As of now, The Esports Observer has not responded to Lewis's video; despite Thiemo Bräutigam tweeting last month that he was going to write one. They did disclose Jens Hilger as the seed investor in a more recent piece but again haven't updated it in prior articles.
What are your thoughts on these issues? Do you think The Esports Observer should've disclosed their financial ties a lot sooner? What are your views on the current climate in the industry? Are you concerned over these and other potential conflicts of interest? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below!