Per Lilliefelth, chief executive of Ninjas in Pyjamas, is out the door following reports that the organization failed to pay its players.
Last week, Breitbart reported that the Sweden-based professional eSports organization still owes thousands of dollars in prize money and deferred salaries.
The news agency, citing sources close to NiP, said players have yet to receive an estimated $340,000 in prize money and in-game sticker sales. A portion of the unpaid amount came from tournaments including MLG Aspen, which has held in January this year, according to the report.
“The excuses for non-payment range from the tournaments having not paid on time to the players not meeting their contracted streaming hours,” the source told Breitbart.
On Sunday, NiP announced that it will undergo “necessary” organizational changes, starting with the immediate sacking of the company CEO.
“As CEO of a company, Per is the individual ultimately responsible for the business, and since he is a pragmatic person he accept responsibility for the mistakes that have been made. As a result of the recent challenging period we have decided to execute the changes earlier than initially planned,” the company said in a statement.
NiP, however, admitted that “some of the criticism and accusations pointed towards [Lilliefelth] are true but far from all of them,” which may have been the reason why the CEO’s head was on the chopping block.
Former Trigono AB CEO Patric Jonsson will serve as interim CEO until next year, according to the company.
“Hicham Chahine will scale up his position as active and working Chairman of the Board at Ninjas in Pyjamas,” the company stated. “The ultimate goal is for Hicham to transition into the role of CEO of Ninjas in Pyjamas during the first half of 2016.”
eSports is already growing into a lucrative industry, with an estimated revenue of $748 million in 2015E, and analysts forecast an explosive growth in the coming years. Many operators—bookies and even daily fantasy sports site—are already jumping on the bandwagon, but the industry is not without its scandals.
In South Korea, 12 people were arrested in connection with a fixing scandal linked to Prime, a local StarCraft II team. Authorities said at least five matches in the Proleague and Global StarCraft II League competitions this year were tampered.
The incidents have prompted organizations to take the necessary precautions. For instance, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) teamed up with sports data specialists Sportradar to provide anti-fraud support and preserve the integrity of tournaments, which ESL CEO Raif Reichert believes is “the most important challenge” facing the rapidly growing eSports industry.