Embracer CEO says decision to accept $1 billion from Saudi state “not taken lightly”
Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors has shared a lengthy statement to explain why the company recently accepted a $1 billion investment from Savvy Gaming Group (SSG).
The cash injection raised eyebrows due to the fact SSG is owned by Saudi Arabia’s state-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF).
PIF is chaired by Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, who has been linked with the assassination of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and accused of torturing human rights activists.
In the statement, Wingefors said he has “received many questions” as to why Embracer sanctioned the deal, adding that he might not have “the right answers.”
Even so, the chief exec said he wanted to make it clear that the “decision was not taken lightly” and acknowledged there are “different views on the topic.”
“I have been asked over the past few days why we are accepting investment from an entity in a non-democratic country. To start, we need to look ourselves in the mirror, we are a public company and already have many hundreds of institutions from all parts of the world as shareholders, including investors from the Middle East and Africa (MENA) and Asia region,” wrote Wingefors.
“Many of them have participated in the capital raising during the past years. Many others have joined over the open market. During the process, we have learned that the SGG parent, PIF, is one of the world’s largest investors, including sizeable ownership in many of our larger gaming peers.
“We genuinely believe that SGG, a fully commercial entity, has ambitions within gaming that are genuine in supporting the global ecosystem for our industry that are consistent with and important to the values and culture of our industry.”
Wingefors claimed the deal won’t affect Embracer’s status as an independent entity and said the company — which owns numerous publishers and studios such as THQ Nordic, Gearbox Software, and Saber Interactive — will continue to value the principles of “freedom, inclusion, humanity and openness.”
“The transaction with SGG will not change this in any way. Embracer is still controlled by the people working in our Group,” continued the CEO. “Together, we control a significant majority of the votes in the company. SGG will own slightly more than 5 percent of the votes and 8 percent of the capital and they have invested in Embracer because they support our current vision, strategy, and leadership, not to change it.”
Wingefors added that Embracer and the SSG team, which is led by industry veteran Brian Ward, have spent the past six months “learning about each other and sharing thoughts on how we can work together to grow in the future.”
Notably, the Embracer boss said those discussions involved “difficult topics” involving non-gaming issues relating to Saudi Arabia, but outlined a belief the company will be able to usher in positive change by “opening our content to new markets.”
“We have the opportunity to build local connections, support entrepreneurs, employ a diverse group people in our whole ecosystem, promote growth and bring the world closer together through gaming,” he added.
Those interested in reading Wingefors’ statement in full should visit the Embracer website, but the Swedish conglomerate has confirmed it will continue to seek out “other sizable strategic or non-strategic potential shareholders” as stated in its previous quarterly report.