It’s been a busy few months for 100 Thieves. In October, the e-sports group participated in the League of Legends world championship in its first year of existence, and later that month Drake and producer Scooter Braun signed on as co-owners. Since then, the company has continued to expand, and today it takes another significant step as former Activision executive and Major League Gaming co-founder Mike Sepso joins 100 Thieves’ board of directors. “I was really impressed before I joined the board with everything they’ve been able to do,” Sepso tells The Verge.
100 Thieves was founded in 2017 by former Call of Duty pro Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, and it’s something of a cross between a traditional e-sports organization and a streetwear company and lifestyle brand. The group operates professional teams in a variety of games, but it also has a large focus on apparel and influencers. 100 Thieves jerseys sell out quickly, and the company drops anticipated clothing lines in a model influenced by streetwear king Supreme. Last month, 100 Thieves showed off its “content house,” a space dedicated to creators like popular Fortnite streamer Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter. In a November interview with The Wall Street Journal, Haag outlined his ambitious plans. “We want to be Supreme and Vice and Red Bull,” he explained. “We want to be like Netflix or Hulu.”
The lifestyle focus and potential for broad reach is part of the reason the likes of Drake have signed up, but competitive gaming is also at the core of 100 Thieves. After making its debut in League of Legends, the group has since formed Call of Duty and Fortnite teams, and it’s actively recruiting Apex Legends players. (100 Thieves also had a brief stint in the Clash Royale League, but the team has since disbanded.)
There’s been some early success; an all-star squad qualified for the Call of Duty World League this season, and after a successful showing in its first year, 100 Thieves’ League of Legends team made a splash by signing two-time world champion Bae “Bang” Jun-sik for the current season.
It’s here that Sepso’s background will come in handy. He co-founded pioneering e-sports company Major League Gaming in 2002, and in 2015 joined Activision to help the company launch its new competitive gaming division. Activision then acquired MLG the following year. As part of 100 Thieves’ board, he’ll be using that experience to help the company achieve its large ambitions.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be in the middle of many of the major shifts in the industry, and part of some of the most important parts of the business as it’s developed, so hopefully I’ll bring that experience and my personal network and relationships to help the company execute,” Sepso says.
Sepso says he’s known Haag since the early days of MLG, and over the years the pair have kept in touch, as he’s helped lend the young entrepreneur business advice. “I’ve known Matt since he literally was a teenager and had just started out in e-sports as an MLG player,” says Sepso. “So it was a natural fit for both of us. I was really excited when he approached me about joining the board.”
During his time at Activision, Sepso says one of his major goals was to introduce the franchise model, which is dominant in traditional sports with permanent teams based in specific cities, to the world of e-sports. It has since become the backbone of the Overwatch League, and it’s been adopted by League of Legends in North America and Europe. It will likely become part of professional Call of Duty in the future, Activision has said.
Since leaving Activision, Sepso has shifted his focus somewhat to e-sports viewed from a team level; first signing on as a strategic advisor for the Overwatch League’s New York Excelsior, and now as a board member of 100 Thieves. As the franchise model is now becoming the norm at a league level, he sees individual teams as the next frontier. “The teams are really the next place where a lot of the innovation is happening in e-sports,” Sepso says.