In the forty days since Laser Kittenz became Cloud9 EU we have witnessed experimental rosters, the departure of CrusaDe and crems and the signing of Kongdoo Panthera. Today Cloud9 EU’s manager and Laser Kittenz founder, Ali "Alicus" Saba, announced his resignation on Twitter.
Stepping off the payload— Alicus (@AlicusOfficial) September 22, 2017
Alicus gets in to the circumstances that brought him to this decision in the second paragraph of his TwitLonger statement:
"Due to some unforeseen circumstances, including both personal and business matters, it is best for my career development and for the organization that I move on to explore other options and opportunities that have been presented to me. In particular, an alleged contractual dispute with a few former players has surfaced that now requires my full and immediate attention to ensure that the situation is properly and justly resolved. I will not currently comment any further on this alleged matter as I still have hope that this unfortunate situation will be resolved amicably and expeditiously without the need for additional recourse."
The "alleged contractual dispute" referred to purportedly dates back to May 2017 when Alicus was still running Laser Kittenz. We reached out to the six players at issue and their attorney, but each declined to comment at this time. With neither Alicus nor the players prepared to comment on the specifics of the dispute, it seems Overwatch fans will be left in the dark for the time being. Although, the gravity of the situation is apparent by the fact that both sides have lawyered up and Alicus has felt it necessary to resign, in part, to give the matter his "full and immediate attention".
Having revealed Laser Kittenz back in mid-March, Alicus would turn the new brand in to a fan-favourite with a series of high profile moves. A laundry list of well-known players and coaches passed through the Kittenz locker room over the team’s five month lifespan. While many of European Overwatch’s major orgs were pulling down the shutters, Alicus was bootcamping his players in Korea, signing previous Lunatic-Hai recruits, and even securing sponsorship from private jet flight marketplace, JetSmarter, valued at half a million dollars by Dot Esports.
It seemed the sky was limit for the ambitious Alicus who had always publicly maintained his Overwatch League aspirations. Fans wanted to believe it as the team continue to progress, achieving a 3rd-4th place finish in Contenders Season Zero, but wondered how the Kittenz could afford the $20 million admission fee. Those questions would be answered when Alicus surprised the scene yet again by signing Laser Kittenz over to Cloud9, the new owners of the London Overwatch League franchise.
However, the events of the past week have seen the prospects of those signed Laser Kittenz players take a turn into uncertain territory after Cloud9 decided to look outside their organisation and acquire the Kongdoo Panthera roster as the new foundation of their OWL team. Jack Etienne, Cloud9’s Co-Founder and CEO, ventured on to r/CompetitiveOverwatch yesterday to explain the circumstances facing his NA, EU and KR rosters.
Responding to a questions in the comments, Jack outlined the rationale behind going with the Korean’s over the Kittenz-based roster currently competing in Contenders Season One:
"Our initial thought process was to build a western team and we were more than willing to pay substantial buyouts and salaries to build a strong team. However, we found that it was very difficult (impossible in many cases) to obtain buyouts or even trails for the players we were interested in. With the deadlines for the OWL roster locks quickly approaching we needed to make some hard decisions to ensure we had a competitive team at the start of the league."
Etienne confirmed that the decision to sign the Korean superstars was his and addressed fan concerns that Cloud9 EU had been left in the lurch, clarifying that they were always under trial contracts with no guaranteed of representing the org in the Overwatch League:
"From day one the agreement was clearly a trail agreement with zero buyout should they not receive an OWL agreement."
"The EU team was the only visible team because of Contenders but we were actively building and scrimming with a C9 team in NA and KR. All this work was an attempt to build the strongest team possible for London. All contracts are trial contracts and they were aware of other teams being run in other regions with limited OWL spots. We're seeing C9 players make posts now looking for teams because it’s now clear which players are going to OWL."
The Reddit thread is packed with interesting titbits from Jack and well worth checking out, but his clarifications are seemingly the final word on the Laser Kittenz ill-fated journey toward the Overwatch League.
Although Alicus has declined to comment further on the "contractual dispute", he did offer some insights on his own dealings with C9, when responding to a detractor on Reddit:
"This is amusing to read. In regards to the LK->C9 deal, I took no money for the LK players in an effort to best equip them with a shot at OWL. This is corroborated by Jack's own public statement that the only player he would want a buyout from is Nevix, because he had to buy him from Misfits. Furthermore, the notion that I needed to pull some new cat (literally) out of the hat "for the chance to be in OWL" is absurd.
Please try to avoid making conclusive statements on a matter you are not appropriately educated on."
Whatever happens from here on out, the players and Alicus himself will have to explore other opportunities if they wish to take part in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League.