A few months prior to that, on a rooftop of Southside, a bar in Seoul, South Korea, Iraqi and I were listening to MonteCristo talk about his Renegades team and how LCS prices were skyrocketing. When Monte left to get a drink, I looked at Iraqi and said, "Man... one day we'll own million-dollar teams as well, just you see." Iraqi nodded and smiled.
Vision is something Iraqi and I shared, and I would say that vision is the most important piece of anything you do in life. We made many mistakes on the way, and vision was what allowed us to stay inspired and keep on moving through the worst of obstacles.
We occasionally argued about some things, but we always had the humility and respect for each other to step back, take a deep breath, and become vulnerable enough to get to the core of the issue. The core is always either ego, unmet expectations, or miscommunication - everything else is noise. Neither one of us is an ideal man, of course. Most of these experiences brought us closer together and made us stronger.
As a player, Iraqi did an amazing job. He led a variety of teams, from the OG GankStars Sirius and its various permutations to Cerberus. He's a Vainglory legend, forever immortalized both in-game through Blackfeather's dialogue line and outside the game on OGN's amazing VIPL Season 1 trophy. He's a beloved member of the community and he deserves every single bit of it. Overall, IraqiZorro is truly one of the best players I've ever worked with. Seeing him go as a player is what makes me the most sad.
At the same time, Iraqi was an active co-owner of GankStars, and this was a conflict of interest I felt we had to eventually resolve. Multiple players reported not feeling comfortable giving him feedback due to his position in the business. Not that I think it's any of his fault - I don't believe anyone in the world is capable of separating those concerns. Most sports structures have specific rules in place to prevent this exact case from occurring.
With GankStars growing from one team in 2016 to 6 teams in 2017, and with us entering the R/GA + Verizon Media Tech program, the need to choose between Iraqi as a player and Iraqi as a business owner became even more urgent. Iraqi could stay a player, but nobody can be a player forever and you want to switch to another job at some point. This left us looking at the business side of things, but we couldn't find an appropriate role for him there either, at least not one that would pay as well as being a player does. All of GS executives are paid zero at this early stage of the business.
If Iraqi wasn't to take over major parts of the company, I asked him to give up equity in order for us to bring on new people who would handle the business side of things.
Iraqi will continue to hold a passive share in GankStars. Though reduced and not consequential to business decisions, it's substantial enough to where GankStars' success also ensures IraqiZorro's success. I will forever consider Iraqi a partner, and will forever value his contributions to GankStars. I made him a promise on that rooftop bar in Korea and I sure intend to keep it, even if he's no longer involved (Iraqi no longer has any role in day-to-day operations of GankStars). To me, my word defines me, and I would be someone I don't like if I ever broke it. As GankStars CEO, I will forever honor Iraqi's legacy.
It's sad to say goodbye to the last member of the OG Sirius squad... Gabe, Cull, and Iraqi were a very special team. Yet, in sports, no team stays the same for too long. Luckily, we took the success of Sirius and replicated it in other titles. Our Critical Ops team is the current World Champion. Our Paladins (PC, XBOX) and Overwatch (PS4) teams are top 3 in the world. Our H1Z1 team debuted as top 10, ahead of far better financed organizations. And we're excited to soon announce new strong teams in other games. Our experiences with Sirius taught us a lot and we're excited to apply these lessons everywhere else.
As to what's next for Iraqi... he is not leaving Vainglory! Nor is he going to play for another VG8 team - perhaps just for now, perhaps forever, I don't know. I think all of Iraqi's fans will be excited for his new role and all of us at GankStars wish him the absolute best, even if he can't fly the GankStars flag anymore. You got this!
Thank you for amazing memories, IraqiZorro! As we wave goodbye to you with a tear and a smile on our faces - thank you, thank you, thank you.
Once a GankStar, always a GankStar. #GSFAMOP