Riot Games has named John Needham as global head of League of Legends esports. The previous heads of the division, Jarred Kennedy and Whalen Rozelle, will remain with the game publisher in new leadership positions.
“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.”
In his new role, Kennedy will lead a division focused on building and operating new business for Riot Games and will also take responsibility for Riot’s strategic partnerships. Rozelle, meanwhile, will lead new esports initiatives across the organization.
Under Kennedy and Rozelle’s leadership, League of Legends expanded to 13 leagues around the world, all integrated through major events. Those leagues include the LCS in North America, LEC in Europe and leagues in Korea and China. They oversaw the last three World Championships and introduced the franchising model in North America.
Needham will now lead development for those major events: The World Championship, Mid-Season Invitational and the All-Star Event. “We are currently in the middle of our ninth season with League of Legends esports, and when we look at the timelines under which traditional sports have evolved, over many decades if not centuries, we’re extremely bullish on what we’re creating,” said Needham. “At Riot Games, we believe that we’re well ahead of the curve and that esports are still only in their infancy. With player experience guiding us as it does all of Riot, we are building a global, sustainable ecosystem for players, teams, partners and fans alike. We’re honored to be considered leaders in the esports space and believe it’s part of our responsibility to help shepherd it forward by investing in the right ideas, events and structure to help this sport reach its full potential.”
Needham has been with Riot since 2017 and most recently served as the managing director of Europe and North America.