FaZe’s Troubling ‘Reboot’

CREATOR NEWSLETTER


In case you missed it over the weekend, esports influencer group FaZe Clan has announced it is going back to its bro-y, frat-house roots. On April 27, the group announced it kicked out over 17 creators from its roster, retaining only 14 “core” members, in a swift, polarizing blow.

The news of team cuts follows a troubling year for the company, with low stock prices, record losses, a series of layoffs, an ousted CEO, and controversial team departures.

In October 2023, one of FaZe’s founding members, creator Richard Bengston — aka FaZe Banks — took over the organization as CEO after the company was acquired by esports marketing company GameSquare. A few months later, in early April 2024, Bengston announced that over 110 FaZe employees had been laid off in the past year — and he hoped to get staff numbers even lower, to around 10.

In a video posted on April 29 following the news of the roster changes, Bengston said the decision came after years of corporate “mismanagement.”

“I can’t apologize for doing what feels right. I can’t apologize for wanting this to be fun again,” he said. “I’ve seen FaZe mismanaged and abused and fucking the life sucked out of it for so long that, like, all I want to do is, I want to see the brand run, and win, and thrive because it deserves to.”

Originally, FaZe was run by its first cohort of gamers and YouTubers, known for pioneering “trickshotCall of Duty videos and living in a New York content house in the early 2010s. But since then, various corporate interests have floated in and out.

First, social media company Hubrick partnered with FaZe in 2015, bringing in entertainment entrepreneur Lee Trink as President to try to give FaZe a more professional business push. Under Trink, the group expanded, leasing a $10 million, 8,000-square-foot “Clout House” in Los Angeles. After 2020, FaZe attracted $40 million in funding, with celebrity investors like Offset, Pitbull, and eventually Snoop Dogg. Forbes estimated it was worth $305 million that year. 

But Trink was also an overspender, known for hosting over-the-top Hollywood parties he couldn’t afford (and letting his pet pit bull bite employees in the office, at least on one occasion, according to Bloomberg.) Under Trink’s leadership, FaZe Clan soon faced devastating losses. By the end of 2021, FaZe had more than $70 million in debt. In 2022, the company lost $48.7 million from operations. After going public in 2022, its shares plummeted from over $20 in July 2022 to 18 cents in October 2023. In 2023 alone, it announced two major rounds of layoffs. 

Despite these 2023 layoffs, many creators still seemed blindsided by the sudden announcement this weekend that they were being removed from the roster. Most were only informed they were getting kicked out 1-2 days before it was publicly announced. In some cases, the day of. Some creators, like Agony and Bloo, had been with the organization for more than a decade. 

“Unfortunate timing cause I’m on vacation, but will make a video about it when I get home this week,” Agony tweeted. “Hopefully, then we’ll know why this happened.”

The only woman in the group, streamer Kalei, also said on stream that she was left in the dark until receiving a call the day of the announcement.


THE COMMENTS SECTION


In response, CEO Bengston said that Kalei was only let go because she failed to form “a genuine relationship” with the founding members of the clan. Apparently, according to Bengston, her presence would mess up “the vibes.”

FaZe’s roster has long been predominantly men — the first woman player it signed was then-13-year-old Fortnite player Soleil Wheeler in 2019. Since 2021, it signed Kalei, five female Valorant players, and Stranger Things star Grace Van Dien. All of whom, except Kalei, departed prior to these recent team cuts. 

In June 2023, the group was criticized for various misogynistic comments in the wake of Van Dien joining the group, which resulted in her leaving FaZe. If you want a couple more examples of FaZe members’ degrading behavior towards women, see here, here, and here.

Famous member Nickmercs also went viral last year for anti-LGBTQ statements. One of its players was suspended in 2020 for using a racial slur. And CEO Bengston has been going on a Twitter rampage these last few days, being aggressive with a particular affinity for the r-word.

Sure, FaZe Clan saw financial ruin due to corporate interests seemingly straying away from the humble roots of a bunch of friends playing video games together, making each other laugh. But now, you have a CEO pretending he’s not actually a CEO — showing zero professionalism amid massive cuts to his team. 

Mind you, GameSquare still owns this company. Former member FaZe Rain, who says he decided to leave the company voluntarily because of the ownership, alleges it is still 51% corporately owned, while GamesSquare itself said its stake was 55% in October 2023. For better or worse, it’s clear FaZe is still a corporate entity. It’s no longer just ‘guys being dudes.’


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