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Saudi-backed group buys ESL for $1bn

And esports platform Faceit for $500m.

The Savvy Gaming Group, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's controversial Public Investment Fund (PIF), has bought the ESL for $1bn.

The group has also snapped up popular esports platform Faceit for $500m, and will now merge the two.

Purchases by the PIF have regularly hit the headlines, as it is widely-seen as a positive PR-creating front for the Saudi Arabian regime - and a lucrative plan to help the country continue to grow as the world transitions away from oil.

Last year, the PIF was revealed to have quietly bought up $3.3bn in shares of EA, Take-Two and Activision Blizzard, equating to a 3.5 percent ownership of the latter two. Outside of gaming, it was revealed the PIF had also acquired large stakes in other familiar companies - such as $1bn in live events conglomerate Live Nation Entertainment, and $4.4bn in Uber.

In 2020, the Saudi crown prince's flagship charity - the Mohammed bin Salman Charitable Foundation "Misk" organisation - bought a third of Japanese game developer SNK.

Riot, meanwhile, U-turned on its plans for a sponsorship deal with bizarre Saudi city project Neom (planned to promote tourism by including robot dinosaurs, flying cars and a giant artificial moon) after significant criticism from League of Legends fans.

Most recently, the PIF spent $409m to own 80 percent of Newcastle United. The Times reported today that the club would be the focal point of a "global plan" to purchase other sports teams around the world.

The Saudi crown prince is a noted video games fan who has previously said he enjoys Call of Duty. He has also been blamed by the CIA for the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while his rule of Saudi Arabia has kept up the country's notoriously poor human rights record. For example, homosexuality is still criminalised - with punishments ranging from floggings to the death penalty.

"Our mission remains unchanged: to create a world where everybody can be somebody," ESL co-CEO Craig Levine said today. "Our merger with FaceIt, along with the backing of SGG, will give us more know-how, capabilities, and resources than ever before to deliver on this vision."

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Tom Phillips

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Tom is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon.

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