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Gaming platform developer Rival shuffles team, taps Wasserman

BY ADAM STERN, Sports Business Journal
3.22.2021

Following significant client growth over the last six months, gaming platform developer Rival is restructuring its executive team and appointing Wasserman as a consultant as it looks to sustain momentum.

Rival has back-end, white-label technology that it sells to entities such as sports franchises, media companies or corporate brands to give them a ready-made gaming product with their name on it. The 2-year-old company, which has an executive team with a mix of sports and gaming backgrounds, now has more than 20 clients after the NBA’s Detroit Pistons became its first major league client last September.

As a result, co-founder and former CEO Shawn Murnan is moving to the role of chairman to work on big-picture items, while Matt Virtue, formerly Rival’s chief strategy officer, becomes CEO and takes over day-to-day duties of running the company.

Virtue said the reorganization is meant to drive everything from further client growth to creating more valuable and differentiated products for clients in an increasingly cluttered gaming landscape.

“When [Murnan] and I got together, we discussed a two-year road map and trajectory for a seamless transition of power that would allow him to take a step back from the day-to-day to work on larger-picture items, and I could supersede and fill in,” said Virtue, who has prior stops at Liverpool Football Club and Scout Sports & Entertainment.

Rival has also brought on Atlanta Hawks executive Samir Mayur as COO to help with data insights and strategy, and changed Paul Brewer’s title from executive vice president of global business development to chief revenue officer. Brewer has a gaming and traditional sports background, having previously worked at ESL and Turner Sports. Dan Parise, a 2017 Sports Business Journal Forty Under 40 honoree, remains CMO.

Among the key upcoming initiatives for Rival are diversifying its client base, which has been heavier in sports so far, and targeting more corporations and media companies. Other current clients include the Seattle Seahawks, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Aston Villa and Watford.

Meanwhile, Rival has brought on Wasserman to help with consumer insights and to broker deals. “I was incredibly impressed with not only the command they have for what the platform can do but also how they can use their broader portfolio of brand properties they work with that can foreseeably use this,” Virtue said.

Zack Sugarman, Wasserman’s senior vice president of properties, said the company will use its research to help Rival craft pitches to prospective clients. He said Wasserman will be working with Rival for at least a year. AT&T is among the companies it works with that are already active in esports.

“It’s going to be exciting to see how we collectively can develop and elevate what they’re doing with not just fan engagement, but helping teams and leagues integrate brand partners into it in a meaningful way,” said Sugarman. “Their knowledge of gaming, combined with our knowledge of teams and leagues, is going to be very interesting and we’re going to do some good deals together.”

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