World Chess to float amid sports cheating scandal

  • World Chess Plc to raise €8m, including investment from tech billionaire Yuri Milner
  • Announcement expected next month

In recent weeks, the image of chess has changed thanks to drama at the pinnacle of the sport – world’s top player Magnus Carlsen quit a game after a move to protest inaction against a young American grandmaster accused of cheating. Many people have taken up playing chess during the Covid-19 shutdowns and new stars like Carlsen, aided by Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit, mean the sport is in a strong position.

The latest drama has also drawn attention far beyond the growing chess fan base, thanks in part to the lurid details of how American player Hans Niemann allegedly cheated while sitting directly opposite. of his opponents.

World Chess Plc, a company that organizes chess tournaments for the game’s governing body (similar to Fifa), operates an online platform for playing and watching chess and has a talent agency for professional players . World Chess is planning an IPO in London by the end of the year and has already lined up €8m (£7m) of investment, in part from Yuri Milner, one of the early investors in Meta-platforms (US: META) and Airbnb (ABNB). World Chess will also hold a PrimaryBid raise for retail investors.

World Chess itself is headed by Russian Ilya Merenzon, and the float announcement underscored the company’s recent exit from the country, having shifted its operations to Berlin and Tbilisi, Georgia. Its income currently comes mainly from sponsorship, but it has not yet released detailed figures.

“We believe that chess is the only grassroots sport that has yet to fully benefit from the creativity and investment of the commercial sector,” Merenzon said.

Money is definitely coming to the sport – Carlsen, the Norwegian grandmaster, is in the process of selling his company Play Magnus to industry leader for $83m (£74m). Private equity firm General Atlantic invested an undisclosed amount in earlier this year, which remains in the hands of its founders.

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