Chatri Sityodtong: ONE Championship Is Prepared To Invest US$1 Billion

Earlier this week, ONE Championship announced an addition of US$70 million to its total capital, which now amounts to US$346 million. Unfortunately however, the Singapore-based promotion also reported at the same time that they have downsized its global workforce by 20%, in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to SportsPro, ONE founder and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong, stated that the promotion is “prepared to invest US$1 billion”, which will serve the company’s “business as usual”. In other words, covering regular expenses and live shows.

Beside ONE’s regular partners such as Sequoia Capital and Temasek Holdings, the latest funding round brought one new investor. Although he didn’t reveal the name, Chatri said it is a “multi-billion dollar investment fund from the US” with “deep experience in sports entertainment investing”.

Chatri explained the reasoning for cutting one-fifth of the workforce while receiving large investments, which “might seem paradoxical”, alluding to “extraordinary times” that require “unusual prudence”.

“If you have a lean, focused organisation, and you have a big balance sheet, we believe that’s the best way to navigate these uncertain times. For us we thought the best strategic thing to do was have a big strong balance sheet and have a lean, focused structure for the company.

“I’m torn because on one hand we have the balance sheet to keep growing aggressively, but on the other hand the world is going through a really extraordinary time, and it’s just wise to be prudent.”

Although he didn’t mention the exact number of jobs lost, Chatri asserted the company will not fire any more staff. He also published an open letter to his staff, detailing the conditions under which the employees are being laid off, listing certain post-employment benefits, and sharing his emotional response and personal view of the situation.

Chatri added that he would “question the credibility” of Bloody Elbow’s recent article, which states that ONE had losses of S$82 million (roughly US$59 million) in 2018, and stated that ONE has “many years of cash on the balance sheet”, which enables the promotion to “navigate very aggressively” during the global crisis.

“That was the point…to remove all uncertainty. We have invested significant amounts of capital in our product, our infrastructure, our brand, so that we’re big in terms of our reach, frequency and engagement numbers, like Facebook did in its early days, like YouTube did in early days, or WhatsApp, or Uber, or like any of these startups that have grown up to become very big companies.

“That’s our strategy. People probably don’t understand it, but ONE Championship is prepared to invest US$1 billion to fulfil its vision.”

ONE’s last show was ONE: King Of The Jungle on February 28th but the promotion is set to return this weekend with their first live events since postponing all of their events in March, April and May. Hero Series 13 is set to go down on Saturday, and ONE Hero Series 14 on Sunday. Both taking place behind closed doors in Beijing, China.

With travel restrictions still in place globally, it is still unknown when ONE will return with international cards. However, once the promotion gets back up and running again, Chatri stated that the focus will be on Asia, as the plans for breaking into the US market are temporarily postponed.

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