NCsoft wants in on KBO expansion

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NCsoft wants in on KBO expansion

NCsoft, a Korean online game developer, expressed interest on Wednesday in founding a ninth professional baseball team in the country’s top league.

The company said it has submitted a letter of intent to the Korea Baseball Organization, which operates the eight-team baseball league, to launch the team.

“We’ve been reviewing the possibility of running a baseball team since the fall of last year,” said Lee Jae-sung, a spokesman for NCsoft. “As an online game company, our job is to delight our customers. We thought we should take that to an offline venture.”

The KBO reached a memorandum of understanding in October with Changwon, a city about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Seoul in South Gyeongsang, to cooperate with the city to launch a ninth franchise. Under the agreement, Changwon is to provide administrative support, including building a new ballpark, and the KBO is to pursue companies interested in owning the new team.

All eight teams in the league are run by large conglomerates, such as Samsung, LG, Doosan and SK.

They operate baseball clubs in exchange for naming rights and advertising.

Lee Sang-il, secretary general of the KBO, said he felt NCsoft had done “a lot of research.”

“We have had three companies show interest in launching a team in Changwon,” Lee said. “Now that NCsoft has made it official, I expect two other companies to soon follow.”

Lee said it was now up to the KBO’s board of directors, made up of eight team presidents, to decide on the feasibility of the ninth ball club at their next meeting on Jan. 11.

NCsoft, founded in 1997, is best known for online games “Lineage” and “Guild Wars.” The company said its “creativity and challenging spirit” will work well with Changwon’s passion for baseball and the KBO’s determination to launch a new team and help further develop professional baseball in the country.

In November, NCsoft reported that its third-quarter earnings went up by about 1 percent year-on-year to 47.3 billion won ($40.9 million). The company said its annual sales reached 634.7 billion won last year.

A new club entering the KBO must pay expansion fees, which are shared among existing clubs and are also used by the league to cover operating costs and to add to the KBO development fund.

While there’s no set expansion fee, the Seoul-based Nexen Heroes, which took over the defunct Hyundai Unicorns before the 2008 season, paid 12 billion won.

The KBO started out in 1982 with six teams and expanded to eight in 1991.

In 2010, the league drew an all-time record of 5.928 million fans, according to the KBO’s Web site.

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