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Pantech to drop cyber game team

In debt workout, the group also will end its sponsorship of pro league

Mar 17,2007
Players of Pantech’s professional computer game team practice at their “home” in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, where they live together. By Wohn Dong-hee
The financial woes of Korea’s third-largest cellphone maker are forcing it to dump its professional computer game team and back away from a popular gaming event.
The Pantech Group is entering a debt workout program, said spokesman Choi Seong-geun yesterday, and the company has been unable to find a firm to take over its professional gaming team, Pantech EX. Its support for the team will last until the end of this month.
“If no one turns up between now and the end of the month, the team will be dismantled,” he said.
Mr. Choi said that the group approached some 15 companies, but that talks went nowhere because firms didn’t understand the concept of professional gaming. The Pantech Group spent about 1 billion won ($10.6 million) a year to operate its professional gaming team, which was mid-tier compared to companies like KTF and SK Telecom, which spend about 1.4 billion won a year on their pro-gaming teams.
The group will also discontinue sponsoring the SKY Pro League, the largest computer game event in Korea, named after Pantech’s cell phone brand. The group spent 1.8 billion won annually to sponsor the game, a major StarCraft tournament hosted by the state-run Korea eSports Association. The finals of the tournament draw thousands of spectators. The association is seeking another sponsor for the event.
Pantech has been one of the many Korean firms increasing investment in the e-sports industry, but the company barely avoided bankruptcy last December after its creditors agreed to reschedule its debts.
“As our management situation began to get worse, we began discussing what we had to let go. The tournament sponsorship went first, and we just recently decided that we can no longer support the team after this month,” Mr. Choi said.
The team, consisting of 19 players and three coaches, was founded in August 2004. In its first year, it won the second round of the SKY Pro League and boasts star players like Lee Yun-yeol, who has more fan clubs than any professional Korean baseball player.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Bank of Korea, the main creditor bank for Pantech Co. and its affiliate, Pantech & Curitel Communications Co., said yesterday that the creditors’ group has finalized plans for management normalization.


By Wohn Dong-hee Staff Writer [wohn@joongang.co.kr]



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