Update 3/4/20: On March 3, New Times received a letter from David W. Swift, an attorney for Amit Raizada based in Santa Monica, California. Citing a February 18, 2020, order from Miami-Dade's circuit court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Swift made several demands, including that we "immediately remove from miaminewtimes.com... all articles, podcasts, blogs, videos, comments, commentary and any other content or posts containing the false and defamatory statements about Mr. Raizada identified in the Order.”
As Swift noted, one of the websites to which our story links has removed at least one story pertaining to allegations made in Raizada's lawsuit against Rick Fox. We have updated the story to note that link is now inoperable.
We have also removed a no-longer pertinent sentence regarding the status of the case and appended two documents at the bottom of this story: the original complaint in Raizada v. Echo Fox and the Eleventh Circuit’s February 18 court order.
Amit Raizada is no stranger to controversy. The Miami-based investor's lengthy career has been plagued by lawsuits from his ex-wife and disgruntled business partners. Now an embattled Raizada finds himself immersed in yet another legal spat — this time over e-sports.
Raizada is suing for damages against Echo Fox, an online gaming company he invested in that was cofounded by former NBA player Rick Fox. In a new lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, Raizada claims Fox publicly defamed him after a fallout between the two in 2018 and says Echo Fox as a company allowed the ex-player to do so.
The suit is the latest legal flareup in the aftermath of the collapse of Echo Fox, which went from a gaming powerhouse to a virtual nonentity in just a few years. The company's collapse drew headlines after Fox threatened to walk away from the business last year after Raizada reportedly used the N-word during a business dispute.
Neither Raizada nor attorneys representing him responded to requests for comment from New Times.
Online gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry and has attracted the eyes and checkbooks of many investors, including Raizada, who made his fortune investing in online payday lenders in Kansas City before moving to the Miami area in 2014. In 2015, Raizada partnered with Fox and businessman Stratton Sclavos to purchase an existing e-sports team and rebrand it as Echo Fox. The next year, Raizada founded the investment group Vision Venture Partners to help draw investment to Echo Fox, a strategy that helped secure financial backing from famous athletes such as Kevin Durant and Odell Beckham Jr. Then, suddenly, the e-sports company began to fall apart.
Echo Fox hit some financial troubles in 2018 shortly before things got messy with Raizada, Fox, and other business partners. The next part of the story, however, is contested by each side.
In his recent lawsuit, Raizada notes Echo Fox saw substantial losses in the middle of 2018 "due to unforeseen events." In early 2019, Fox and a business partner bought a majority stake in Echo Fox. By then, according to court docs, the company was already $6 million in debt despite having raised $38 million only months earlier.
But Fox, who filed a lawsuit against Raizada in California last year, had a different explanation for the company's financial woes: He alleged Raizada used investor funds to pay himself a $350,000 salary, lease a house in Beverly Hills, and rack up a six-figure expense account without company approval.
Regardless of the exact troubles that befell the company, in early 2019, Fox reportedly began to signal his interest in leaving to work on other ventures with former Echo Fox CEO Jace Hall. That's when things got ugly. According to a January 2019 email chain leaked to and confirmed by e-sports news outlet Dexerto[link no longer operable], Raizada reportedly responded to Fox's potential departure by making personal threats.
"[There will be] NO DEAL ON ANYTHING AND IF RICK DOES NOT DO HIS DUTIES ILL PERSONALLY FUCK HIM AND HIS FAMILY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE," Raizada wrote, according to Dexerto.
Then, in April, reports surfaced that Raizada had used the N-word to describe Hall, who is of African-American descent, during a disagreement. Echo Fox confirmed the reports in a statement and added there had been multiple incidents of "racial epithets" used by Raizada. He denied sending any threatening messages to Fox but admitted to using a racial slur in a conversation with Hall.
The news of racist abuse of Hall prompted Riot Games — the operator of a lucrative professional e-sports league in which Echo Fox players competed — to demand Echo Fox drop Raizada or sell its slot in the league. Ultimately, Echo Fox was unable to get rid of Raizada, and the company's slot was eventually sold to another gaming organization for $30 million, according to reports.
In his new Miami lawsuit, Razaida argues that since January 2019, Fox has been painting him as "the villain and catalyst for Echo Fox's demise." He also alleges that, through Fox, Echo Fox as a company conspired with Michael Gortenburg and Scott Asner, two "known adversaries" and former business partners of Raizada's.
The beef between Raizada and his former business partners has been well documented in media reports: In a May 2019 interview with gaming outlet Upcomer, Gortenburg claimed Raizada had a history of using racial slurs and threatening business partners.
"What's happened with Rick Fox and Jace Hall is not fresh or new," Gortenburg said during the interview. "This is repetitive and old. Everything you've seen here has happened before."
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Manuel Madrid is a former staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C.