Riot Games Taps John Needham as Head of Global Esports

Courtesy of Riot Games
2018 'League of Legends' World Championship; Inset: John Needham

He succeeds current Riot Games co-heads of esports Jarred Kennedy and Whalen Rozelle, who will remain at Riot Games in new leadership positions.

Riot Games, makers of the popular online video game League of Legends (LoL), has tapped John Needham as its new global head of LoL esports. He previously served as managing director of Europe and North America for Riot Games.

Needham succeeds current Riot Games co-heads of esports Jarred Kennedy and Whalen Rozelle, who will remain at Riot Games in new leadership positions. Kennedy will now lead a division focused on building and operating new businesses for Riot Games while also assuming responsibility for Riot’s strategic partnerships, while Rozelle will be heading new esports initiatives across the organization.

“Riot’s aspirations are growing, and we are moving three of our proven leaders to accomplish even bigger things, on games, and beyond games,” said Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent. “John’s global experience, track record with our regional esports leagues, and true passion for gaming will accelerate the evolution of League of Legends into one of the leading sports and entertainment properties in the world."

Under Kennedy and Rozelle's leadership, Riot's esports division has expanded to 13 separate leagues across the globe, including the LCS in North America, the LEC in Europe and also leagues in Korea and China.

"LoL is an esports phenomenon, thanks in large part to the leadership, drive, and vision of Jarred and Whalen, and we're now confident that we are well on our way to becoming a multi-decade, multi-generational sport," said Laurent.

As esports continues to grow in North America (analytics firm Newzoo has predicted the industry will top $1.1 billion in 2019), LoL continues to be one of the most-watched titles globally. Riot’s esports leagues feature more than 100 teams and 800 professional players.

Last year's League of Legends World Championship was broadcast live in 19 languages and attracted 99.6 million unique viewers for its final events, while viewership for regular season matches in 2018 averaged 90 million hours watched live.