It Was Just a FaZe: What Happened to Gaming’s Highest-Valued Org?

Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock @FaZeClan/Twitter (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

Notorious esports organization FaZe Clan has a history of infighting, and it’s only gotten worse in recent weeks.

“I don’t like you, I think you are a terrible person,” Stranger Things actress Grace Van Dien told Nordan Shat, aka FaZe Rain, in a tense video on his channel on May 31.

Van Dien was the latest streamer signed to FaZe, a controversial group with over a decade of history that Shat is a co-owner of. The pair had been publicly feuding since Shat leaked her signing days before it was announced, claiming the actress only got signed because of her television series.

“It’s a bunch of corporate people deciding who the FaZe fans want to see in FaZe,” he said in a video.

In a highly criticized misogynistic comment, he later added on a May 28 stream that she was “excruciatingly mid” and he would “never let [her] touch [him] even on [his] drunkest night.”

When the FaZe Twitter account tweeted on the day the video was released that “the mistreatment of our newest member is in no way OK,” one of the longest-running members Richard Bengston, aka FaZe Banks, tweeted, “You guys have lost the fucking plot”—referring to the current org’s lack of support from some of its longer-term members.

Shortly after, Van Dien temporarily privated her Twitter account, seemingly due to the backlash and alleged death threats she received from Shat’s fan club. 

Founders vs. funders

Van Dien was caught in the crossfire of the ongoing feud between the original “OG” FaZe members and its newer management, a series of venture capitalists and traditional business people who joined the org starting around 2015.

Together, they have brought the company to multi-million dollar success and subsequently tanked the value of the organization, with their stock hitting a record low, going from $17 in August 2022 to 53 cents today—recording a $53.2 million loss in 2022. 

“I don’t see a way out for them besides bankruptcy at this point,” esports journalist James B. Fudge told Passionfruit. “Nobody is going to come in and save them because of their debt.”

FaZe started with humble roots. In May 2010, FaZe was a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 clan founded by three friends. They compiled their best clips into the “FaZe ILLCAMS,” performing high-skill trick shots, spinning around or changing weapons in milliseconds while still getting kills in the game.

In 2012, the group’s channel hit a million subscribers, and they expanded into esports, bringing on Call of Duty and Counter-Strike teams. With new members joining, like Shat in 2012 and Bengston in 2013, they started their first gaming house in 2014. This allowed for easy collaboration that caused members’ channels to gain more subscribers and clout. 

Something wicked this way comes

In 2015, Norwegian social media platform Hubrick approached the organization that had up to that point been run by YouTubers and gamers. Former Hubrick CEO Sebastian Guerts brought in entertainment entrepreneur Lee Trink to become FaZe’s president to help give the company a more legitimate polish.

According to court documents obtained by Puck News, Geurts approached the members of FaZe and said they were in “chaos and crisis” before he “decided to step in to help restore order, grow the business, and lead.”

Under Trink’s leadership, the clan expanded, spending $700,000 on acquiring G2 Esports’s Counter-Strike roster. Then in 2017, they started leasing a $10 million “Clout House,” a new 8,000 square feet steamer house in Los Angeles.

“I have angst about not having our proper due in the world,” Trink told Newsweek in 2019. “I won’t rest until FaZe sits among the best sports franchises of all time: Patriots, Lakers, Manchester United. I know we are going there.”

From 2018 to 2020, FaZe would start financing with venture capital companies and add celebrities like Offset, Ray J, and Pitbull to its ownership group, eventually closing a $40 million round of funding. In March 2022, Snoop Dogg became an investor and was added to the board of directors. According to Forbes, the organization was worth $305 million in 2020. 

Cracks beginning to show

Even with all of this extreme capital, cracks started to show. Former clan member Turner Tenney, aka Tfue, sued the organization and left in 2019, alleging the company withheld his fair share of brand deals and undercut his streaming earnings. FaZe countersued, and the suits were settled in August 2020

Alissa Butler, known to her 12.6 million followers on Instagram as Allissa Violet and ex-girlfriend of FaZe Banks, sued the company in 2021, alleging she was owed stock from a verbal agreement. 

FaZe declined to provide an on-the-record comment about the lawsuits to Passionfruit.

That same year, OG member Frazier Kay was removed from the organization, along with three other members getting suspended, after they promoted a “Save the Kids” crypto coin that ended up being worthless.

But regardless of all this negative press and controversy, those in charge of FaZe brought the company public in July 2022. Things started well, but on March 23, FaZe was issued a deficiency notice by the NASDAQ stock exchange since the price was under $1, and they have 180 days to turn it around. As of June 7, it is still below $1.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Snoop Dogg resigned from his post on the board in April 2023. 

OGs fight back

While issues piled up, some of those older creators have felt left out. Jakob Swaerden, aka Teeqo, joined the organization in 2011 and released a video on March 12 describing how he felt “led on” by ownership with “fake promises.” He claimed he had the same contract that Tenney had sued the company over and asked the company to void it and draft him a new one. His latest contract was signed in 2021 and is still active. 

“Someone else can come in, who’s not from this industry, never lifted a finger for FaZe, probably didn’t even know what FaZe was, and get three times the amount of shares that I have, and an annual salary that’s more money than I’ve ever been paid by FaZe,” Swaerden said in the video. 

Others echoed similar sentiments. “It’s the corruption in the background, the people that aren’t like us,” Shat said during a December 2022 video. “People that sacrificed their life and their childhood to do this shit, they deserve what comes, not the people who were shit-talking us 10 years ago.”

In need of a serious change 

But outside the loss of capital and drama, there’s a bigger rot at the company. FaZe’s roster of 85 players is predominantly men—the first woman it signed was then 13-year-old Fortnite player Soleil Wheeler in 2019. Since 2021, it signed streamer Kalei Renay, five female Valorant players, and Van Dien.

Members of FaZe have been called out for misogyny in the past. Retired Call of Duty player Thomas Paparatto posted a now-deleted tweet in September 2022 about all the “whores on Twitch showing their body to young kids.”

FaZe’s Call of Duty team also tweeted a photoshopped image of their roster as women with the caption “how many drinks to take them home” (the organization apologized for the latter). In addition, long-time video editor Tom Barker was removed from the organization in 2020 after allegations that he asked a minor for nudes surfaced online.

FaZe Mew was suspended from the organization in November following a sexual assault allegation from another streamer. Last week, Mew popped up again to try and defend his name, leaking a call on his now-deleted Twitter he had with members of FaZe who seem to say about the victim that “it was obvious that that girl was…a little bit of a…some drama, looking for attention kind of thing.”

FaZe, and gaming in general, has a boy’s problem and deep-rooted misogyny that negatively impacts female gamers. “It’s incredibly important to have female representation in gaming,” Van Dien said in her FaZe announcement video. On Tuesday, she released a video alongside another woman gamer, Ashtronova, about sexism in the gaming community.

She later told Shat in that initial video that her goal for joining was to “stop sexism in gaming.” The fact that the response of the audience that consumes his content was to bully her into temporarily making her Twitter private proves that there is a problem with the trollish mindset. 

Even with a miracle massive influx of cash, a cultural shift needs to happen in the organization. Gaming is no longer a boy’s club and needs to move past the dialogue you’d hear in a toxic Call of Duty game. FaZe might be in financial ruin, but if those with the loudest voices refuse to change, the org has no future.

What is your experience with FaZe Clan? Email [email protected] to share your story.

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