Stephano's Contract Situation Imbroglio

From Liquipedia StarCraft 2 Wiki

In September 2011, Stephano was the corner stone of an imbroglio regarding his contract situation, after he signed a contract with the American team compLexity Gaming, only to turn down this legal document a few hours later in order to remain on the French team Millenium. The mutual misunderstandings between the two teams led to a series of contradictory statements, which resulted on a notable controversy about the professionalism of the three parties, as well as questions about the reliability of contracts in esports.

Background[edit]

Stephano, the corner stone of the imbroglio.

During the first half of 2011, Stephano progressively made a name for himself in the European scene, taking the third place of the ASUS ROG Summer 2011 at Assembly. A high school student at the time, he had been a member of team Millenium since October 2010 [1]. After he graduated from high school in July 2011, he hinted that he was considering delaying his entry to university in order to play full-time for a year [2]. On September 8th, Stephano eventually stated that he was indeed taking a sabbatical in order to focus on StarCraft II.[3] On September 15th, he explained that almost every prominent European team as well as other teams with an international reputation had offered him to join them, and that he refused them all, hence thinking that he would spend the coming year on Millenium.[4]

Controversy[edit]

Three days later, on September 18th, The American team compLexity Gaming announced that they had recruited Stephano after what Jason Bass (compLexity's COO) described as long negotiations [5].

"We have been talking to Stephano for quite some time and today we are thrilled to announce he will be joining our family. We all look forward to seeing him at IPL and MLG Orlando next month. It is our hope that this addition is another strong sign of our dedication to the global StarCraft community. With the coL.MVP, the compLexity Academy, THE V and coL.SC2 we are optimistic about the future and encourage our fans around the world to get on board and support StarCraft 2."

— Jason "Anomoly" Bass


"I'm very happy to join coL. It'll be a whole new experience for me and I'm confident I'll enjoy my whole time with the team."

— Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri


Millenium quickly released a news on its website at 04:58 CET on September 19th, which was mostly a translation of compLexity's announcement, and didn't feature an official statement from the French team [6]. The official declaration came fourteen hours later, when Cédric Page (Millenium's CEO) released a statement castigating compLexity's approach, and proclaiming that Stephano would sign an employment contract with the French team.[7]

"Since the start of Millenium, we dreamt of a French eSport organisation that would discover young players with great potential, would support them in their passion and would follow them to the summits of skill...

Stephano joined Millenium at the start of StarCraft II, as an almost unknown player. We supported him as best as possible until today. He is now considered a great hope for the world circuit with an amazing potential, and having to let him go to another team would have been a complete failure for us, a nonsensical thing.

The means used by compLexity to recruit Stephano were disorienting enough to influence our young player towards a bad decision. After a long discussion, Stephano understood his mistake and decided to stay with Millenium for the next 12 months.

This troubled day was, however, full of lessons. This morning, with the announcement of our player to an American team, the majority of the French community considered this transfer to be a logical step. I even saw some amateur writers of our site writing with sadness that Millenium "could not compare".

Now, let's stop bringing ourselves down, let's stop thinking that a French player has to play abroad to succeed. The Millenium.org site has more pageviews than SK-Gaming.com or any other European or American team outside of Team Liquid.[8] Our budget is certainly one of the biggest in the world among E-sports teams. So let's stop seeing ourselves as worse because we are a French team.

Stephano will sign, as agreed, a CDI (ie: an employment contract with no expiration date) as a "Professional player", identical to those signed by professional sportsmen. He will travel across the world to attempt to win many tournaments, from Asia to the USA. We put our hopes and dreams of a French victory on him, but we also expect a lot from our other StarCraft players and our soon to be League of Legends team...

Let them make us dream and cheer! Let Millenium shine, for all the passionate fans of electronic sports that we are!"

— Cédric "Cedrix" Page

Millenium's statement immediately sparked questions among the community, which wondered if compLexity Gaming had not precipitated its announcement, and if Stephano actually signed a contract with the American team or not. There were also questions about what Cédric "Cedrix" Page called "disorienting means used by compLexity". Last but no least, several people pointed out that Millenium's communiqué was not clear about the employment contract that Stephano was supposed to sign with Millenium, since it contradictorily stated that the French player would be offered a CDI (i.e. an employment contract with no expiration date, which is used for long-term commitment and can be hardly broken by the employer), and that the period over which the contract was set to run was twelve months (which is characteristic of a CDD, a contract with an expiration date), hence making the nature of the offered contract quite vague.

Shortly after, compLexity issued a quick statement explaining that Stephano did actually execute a legally binding contract with them, and that they were evaluating their legal options with French counsel.[5] Meanwhile, Jason Bass (compLexity's CEO) refuted Millenium's accusations of disorienting the young player, arguing that his organisation had been negotiating with Stephano and countering offers made by Millenium for several weeks. He also criticised Millenium's decision of not honoring the rule of contract law, resulting on disrespecting esports.[9]

Between 20:00 and 22:00 CET, Rémy "Llewellys" Chanson held a special broadcast on Millenium's webTV with Stephano, and detailed Millenium's point of view on the matter. He confirmed that there was indeed a signed legal document that bound Stephano and compLexity together. He explained that Millenium's staff reviewed it, and told the French player that there were loopholes in it, and that it didn't comply with French labor law. Subsequently, Llewellys and Millenium's staff advised Stephano to ignore it, which he eventually did. He also stated that he didn't know about compLexity's intentions before the announcement of the transfer on TeamLiquid Forum, but couldn't say if other people in Millenium's staff were in contact with the American team or not. He then explained that he didn't intend to discuss the matter with compLexity's officials and to withdraw Millenium's offer to Stephano, since he was confident that his organisation was covered by French labor law. Llewellys eventually contradicted his CEO's accusations of compLexity disorienting Stephano, stating that these actions were just that the contract was signed during the night, and that the French player was just 18 years old. During the first part of the broadcast, Stephano stated that he was now scheduled to compete in IGN ProLeague Season 3 and in 2011 MLG Orlando, and to spend a few weeks in a prohouse in Korea.

compLexity Gaming later released an official statement concerning the matter, in which Jason Lake and Jason Bass described compLexity's means of recruiting Stephano, confirmed that both the French player and Millenium had refused to answer their emails requesting a discussion of the matter, and reaffirmed their intentions of taking actions in order to make sure that legal contracts in esports are rightfully honored.[10]

"Dear friends,

We know many of you are quite confused as to the recent incident involving Stephano and Team Millenium. Frankly, we are as well. As of the time of this post both have ignored our requests for open discussions. Our goal in this statement is to provide you with our side of the story, even as we are actively investigating the proper course of action, not only for ourselves but for the greater good of eSports in general.

[...]

Here are the facts (all of which can be proven by written logs):

1) We first contacted Stephano on September 1st, 2011. We stated our interest in retaining his services and he stated that he was in no way contracted to Millenium and was interested in joining compLexity.

2) For the next 18 days we conducted negotiations. We would make an offer and Millenium would make a counter offer. At no point did we apply pressure other than to make it clear that we were willing to do what it would take to secure his services.

3) Over the course of several days, Jason Bass spent time explaining our contract to Stephano in detail and making sure he understood all of the terms.

4) Yesterday Stephano contacted coL.CatZ and our COO Jason Bass to inform them he had made his final decision and told CatZ "Don't worry I won't change my mind again." He then executed a legally binding contract with our organization. He seemed genuinely excited to be a part of our organization and joined our private Skype channel to chat with the team before going to bed.

5) Stephano's contract with compLexity made him one of the highest paid SC2 players in the world and ensured him global travel, training in Korea and access to other undisclosed plans we have for the future. In no way was he taken advantage of or pressured into a subpar agreement.

Today we were very surprised and disappointed to see that Millenium had announced Stephano would not be leaving their organization - completely disregarding and disrespecting the fact that he had 18 days to consider the offers and had executed a legally binding contract with our organization. As mentioned previously, as of the time of this post both Millenium and Stephano have refused to answer our emails requesting a discussion of this serious matter.

This leaves us in a very difficult situation. As people who are passionate about eSports, this situation is quickly turning out to be a humiliating one despite our best efforts to handle matters in the right way. By no means do we want to force a player to be part of our gaming family. For over eight years gamers have longed to play under the compLexity banner. To have someone treat our sincere offer of support and cooperation in such a light hearted manner is frustrating and disheartening.

On the other side of the coin, in order for all of us to have a stable and maturing eSports environment there absolutely must be respect for and adherence to legally binding contracts. How can any organization be expected to conduct the business side of gaming (acquiring and retaining sponsors, etc) if contracts are disregarded and players/teams do whatever they feel like at the moment? We believe the answer is clear- contracts must be honored and legally binding promises enforced if we are to continue our collective growth. It has never been our wish to legally pursue a gamer or another gaming organization but at what point must a stand be taken? These are the questions we are discussing today. We will fully review our options and will seriously consider legal action in this matter. Many observers would publicly crucify us for taking such a stand but it is our belief that doing what is right is more important than always doing what is popular. It is our intention to consult with other eSports leaders and weigh their opinions highly. Although this is ultimately our business decision and responsibility, the ramifications will be felt world-wide and we feel an obligation to get opinions from our respected colleagues.

We sincerely apologize to the coL Community and the broader eSports community for this embarrassing turn of events and we greatly thank you for your support. Both of us have poured ourselves into eSports for nearly a decade and are very disheartened by this situation."

— compLexity Gaming

This situation led the community to wonder if Stephano's contract situation was going to interfere with his ability to compete in North American events, since he was bound to compLexity Gaming by a contract valid in the USA. This issue was particularly urgent given that the French player was scheduled to compete in the IGN ProLeague Season 3 and in 2011 MLG Orlando the next month.

Millenium eventually released another communiqué on September 20th, which drastically contrasted their previous statements. The French team said indeed that they were now willing to discuss the matter with their American counterparts, and that they wished that this kind of incident would be prevented from ever occurring again thanks to an easier worldwide communication between organisations.[11]

Settlement[edit]

Both teams eventually agreed to settle the matter on September 21st. The agreement, for which Alex Garfield (Evil Geniuses's executive director) acted as a mediator, stated that Stephano would remain with Millenium, and would have to pay a significant fine (which amount was not disclosed) in consideration of his role in creating the situation. In the common communiqué describing the settlement, Jason Bass (compLexity Gaming's COO) explained that, when negotiating with Stephano from September 1st to September 18th, his organisation didn't contact Millenium directly because the French player wasn't contracted by the French organisation. Furthermore, compLexity thought that Stephano had informed Millenium of his intentions, since he incorrectly told compLexity's officials that the French organisation was making counter-offers. On the other hand, Cédric Page (Millenium's CEO) stated that his organisation didn't on purpose ignore compLexity's attempt to establish communication, blaming time difference for the time it took to respond to the American team. He also confirmed that Millenium was never aware of, nor involved in, a bidding/counterbidding process with its American counterparts over Stephano's contract situation, and apologised for stating that compLexity 'disoriented' Stephano during their talks with him.[12]

Aftermath[edit]

After the matter was settled, Stephano signed an employment contract with Millenium, hence becoming the second player ever, and at the time the only current player, to have this kind of contract with a French team (the first being MoMaN, who was employed by Cyber Nation from December 2010 to July 2011). The nature of Stephano's contract (CDI or CDD) is still unknown. Stephano was able to compete in the North American events he was scheduled to participate in, eventually winning the IGN ProLeague Season 3.

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. France "Millenium.sc2 recruits Stephano". Millenium.org. October 7th 2010. Translated version
  2. France "I may dedicate myself totally to eSports, and there are chances that I continue my studies." Interview with Stephano during IEM VI - Cologne. Team-aAa.com. August 19th 2011. Translated version
  3. France "ToD leaves Millenium, Stephano takes a sabbatical". eSportfrance.com. September 8th 2011. Translated version
  4. France Stephano: "GSL is not one of my goals". Interview with Stephano. eSportfrance.com. September 15th 2011. Translated version
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Welcome to Stephano". compLexityGaming.com. September 18th 2011. TeamLiquid.net Forum thread
  6. France "Millenium loses a player to compLexity". Millenium.org. September 19th 2011. Translated version
  7. France "Millenium signs Stephano - Millenium's CEO statement". Millenium.org. September 19th 2011. Translated version / TeamLiquid.net Forum thread
  8. It should be noted that Millenium.org, contrary to other team's website, is a news portal which covers several esports scene as well as video games news, which explains why it has more pageviews, regardless of the team's popularity.
  9. Jason Lake: "For Mr. Page to insinuate we improperly "disoriented" a young player is an outright lie.". TeamLiquid.net. September 19th 2011.
  10. "compLexity's Official Statement". compLexityGaming.com. September 19th 2011.
  11. "Statement on the Stephano situation". Millenium.org. September 20th 2011.
  12. "compLexity and Millenium come to agreement". compLexityGaming.com. September 21st 2011. TeamLiquid.net Forum thread