On Wednesday, The Esports Advocate reported that the esports division of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) known as The Guard had laid off a majority of its staff, except for those players and staff associated with Call of Duty League franchise Los Angeles Guerillas and Overwatch League franchise Los Angeles Gladiators.
Today TEA has a better picture of the events that unfolded on Wednesday (Feb. 22).
Wednesday started like a normal work day at The Guard’s LA offices; workers filed in and set about their daily routines, and everything moved along like every other work day. Some of the new employees were still getting acclimated to the environment because they had just relocated to Los Angeles for this new opportunity and had only been in the office for one or two days. A handful of employees were on work visas—thanks to their employment at The Guard—while others had just come off the harrowing experience of being laid off at other esports organizations and were thankful for a fresh start.
But by Wednesday afternoon, a majority of employees both old and new were shocked to find out that they had been let go. An email was sent to staff sometime between 1:30 – 1:45 p.m. that an emergency all-hands staff meeting would take place at 2:00 p.m., but employees figured out pretty quickly that something bad was about to happen when access to email was shut off at around 1:50 p.m.
Staff were gathered together at 2:00 p.m., where KSE front office exec and long-time Josh Kroenke friend Michael Neary announced that, due to restructuring, their employment was terminated immediately and that they would be paid through Thursday. After the announcement employees were escorted out of the building by armed security guards with barely enough time to gather up personal effects or backup personal data on company equipment.
If Michael Neary’s name sounds familiar, it is because—along with Josh Kroenke—he has been an integral part of the home office leadership group heading up esports for KSE since it bought its OWL franchise way back in 2017.
TEA has learned that, as of Friday, both the Apex Legends and Valorant teams remain intact and active, with a sole focus on competitions through the 2023 seasons. TEA has also learned that, excluding players, only around five or six employees remain across KSE’s entire esports ecosystem, but their long-term status remains tenuous. The total number of layoffs as of this moment is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30+ employees.
Employees who worked for KSE’s esports division for 12 months or less received a month’s worth of severance, while those who worked 12 – 24 months at the company received two months’ worth. In order to receive severance, employees had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. As far as TEA knows, KSE is not providing job placement assistance or other associated services to any of the affected employees.
As previously reported by TEA and Sports Business Journal, KSE will continue to operate its Call of Duty and Overwatch League franchises (mainly because it is contractually obligated to do so under its contract with Activision Blizzard, a source tells us), and options are being explored.
TEA has reached out to KSE home office executive Michael Neary for comment and will update this story should more information become available.
Editor’s note: This story is based on public accounts and sources familiar with the situation who spoke to TEA and asked not to be identified. Biff Corbett contributed to this story.