Barely more than a year after it began trading publicly, esports media platform FaZe Clan’s shares have lost more than 98% of their value; its most famous board member, Snoop Dogg, has stepped away; and now, the board has fired the company’s CEO.
Among other things, FaZe Clan was notable for the fact that its c-suite had considerable overlap with the music industry, at a time when music rights holders have been busy making inroads in the gaming community.
Its CEO, Lee Trink, served as President of EMI Capitol Music Group and General Manager of Virgin Records prior to his time at FaZe Clan; its COO, Zach Katz, joined the company in 2022 after stints as President of BMG in the US and CEO of Raised In Space, the music/tech investment company co-founded by Scooter Braun.
However, Katz stepped down as COO in May, for reasons unknown (though the company did declare, in an SEC filing, that the resignation “did not arise from any disagreement on any matter relating to the operations, policies, or practices of the company.”)
And now, Trink has been shown the door. According to a September 9 SEC filing, FaZe Holdings’ board has terminated its contract with its chief executive officer.
“In accordance with the Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines, as a result of this termination, Mr. Trink is required to submit his resignation as a member of the Board,” the company said in a statement.
Trink will be replaced on an interim basis by Christoph Pachler, the company’s CFO, who also replaced Katz as COO in May. Pachler will be wearing all three hats until a permanent CEO can be found.
Unlike his predecessors, Pachler doesn’t hail from a music industry background, having previously worked as a Senior Vice President at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and as Executive VP and CFO at Playboy Enterprises.
Trink had served as CEO of FaZe since 2018, helping to build the company’s roster of more than 100 gamers and online influencers.
When the company went public on the NASDAQ in 2022 – as part of SPAC merger with a blank-check company called B. Riley Principal 150 Merger Corp. – it described itself as the first publicly-traded Gen Z influencer corporation.
But the timing of the merger proved unfortunate, as by the summer of 2022, investors had begun souring on SPAC deals, which had had their heyday in 2020 and 2021.
Though the company had hoped for an initial valuation of USD $1 billion, it debuted on the market closer to $725 million. Its shares fell by 24% on the first day of trading in July 2022, and continued their decline from there.
As of Thursday (September 14), FaZe Holdings was trading $0.18 per share on the NASDAQ, down 98.6% from its IPO price of $13.07.
“We – and our industry at large – continue to operate in a highly challenging environment, which has adversely impacted our ability to explore new revenue categories and generate a meaningful amount of new brand partnerships.”
A decade ago, the groundbreaking company built a follower base of millions of fans who tuned in to watch gamers, and later other influencers. But that growth has stagnated; the company reported 509 million followers in Q2 2023, down from 527 million at the end of 2022.
And it has struggled to monetize that fan base. According to Bloomberg, FaZe – which counted 112 employees at the end of last year – reported an operational loss of $48.7 million in 2022.
And the most recent quarters have shown an even worse performance, with an operating loss of $7.7 million in Q1 2023, and $28 million in Q2 2023, roughly double the losses in the same period a year earlier. This was largely on the back of tumbling revenues, which fell by roughly a quarter in Q1 and a third in Q2.
“We – and our industry at large – continue to operate in a highly challenging environment, which has adversely impacted our ability to explore new revenue categories and generate a meaningful amount of new brand partnerships,” the company said in its Q3 letter to shareholders.
“In line with the overall macroeconomic climate, our current and prospective brand partners have experienced slower growth and higher business uncertainty in the first half of the year, leading to a much slower uptake in new sponsorships for FaZe.”
This spring the company saw the departure of its most prominent member of the board of directors, Snoop Dogg, though the company stressed in a statement to media that the departure was amicable, adding that “we will continue a multi-year collaboration agreement between Snoop and FaZe.”
As Bloomberg pointed out, beyond the issue of declining ad rates in the online space, the company may also be suffering from a decline in its public image: FaZe Clan’s irreverent counterculture vibe proved hard to maintain as it transitioned into the publicly-traded multimillion-dollar FaZe Holdings.
“Bro to be honest. I don’t give a ‘f’ if Faze is Public Company,” one YouTube commenter wrote. “I miss when it was 6 friends in a average NY house making funny pranks, skits, vlogs, and challenges every day.”Music Business Worldwide