Panda Global founder and long-time CEO Dr. Alan Bunney announced on social media that he is resigning from the esports organization, but promised to provide a statement with proof that fighting game community and Super Smash Bros. tournament organizer Smash Word Tour lied about the situation and that Beyond The Summit leadership “put the community in jeopardy.” Bunney’s resignation is the latest in a series of developments related to Smash World Tour canceling this month’s 2022 major Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate event, which would have doled out a total of $500K USD in prize money–the largest prize pool in competitive Smash history.
While Bunney will step down from his role as CEO, he still holds considerable equity in the organization so it is unclear what role he will have with the company going forward or if he will continue to help shape policy decisions in a new role as a key member of the leadership group.
Panda Global also issued a statement noting that Bunney was out as CEO and that it was working with a interim management committee that will act as “CEO.” The goal is to give those under contract wishing to exit options to do so, and to help those displaced find new homes. Panda also announced that the Panda Cup Finale has been postponed due to safety concerns.
Last week Smash World Tour announced that it would cancel its 2022 and 2023 events related to Super Smash Bros. games due to Nintendo not granting the TO an official license to run competitions using its intellectual property. SWT also claimed that Panda Global played a major role in this, an accusation echoed by multiple TOs including Beyond The Summit, who claimed Bunney was quietly telling people that they should join the Panda Cup (an officially licensed Smash circuit announced at the end of last year) because SWT would not get a license and would be shut down.
Bunney has denied these accusations, but admitted to a conversation with BTS that he describes as being inappropriate. SWT claimed that Nintendo shut the event down, but the Super Smash Bros. owner claimed that, while the parties could not come to terms with a license, it never told SWT it couldn’t go forward with its event this month. SWT countered by saying that because Nintendo tends to be litigious with TOs when it comes to licensing, it didn’t want to take the chance of getting a cease-and-desist letter from the company. The company claims that it will lose “hundreds of thousands of dollars” as a result of this situation.
Bunney’s resignation follows key resignations from his organization over the weekend including pro Super Smash Bros. Justin “Plup” McGrath. In a statement posted on social media on Saturday, McGrath expressed his declining confidence in the wake of the current controversy:
“I’m quitting panda. I’ve truly enjoyed my time there, and they treated me well. I know that, at a certain point, they had the community’s best interests in mind. I just don’t think I can support them anymore. Now I must sleep for 1000 years in preparation for da next tournament.”
Also announcing his exit from the company is Zack “Little Z” Treharne, a popular YouTuber from Australia who creates Super Smash Bros. content. He issued a similar statement on Monday:
“I’m leaving Panda. I’m really grateful for all the opportunities they have provided me with, and have met so many wonderful people there. However, I do not agree with how they have responded to the current situation, and can no longer associate myself with their brand.”