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Riot Games investigates TSM CEO Andy Dinh over bullying accusations

10 July 2019; Andy Dinh, Founder, Team SoloMid, on Q + A Stage during day two of RISE 2019 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong. Photo by David Fitzgerald/RISE via Sportsfile

Riot Games is currently investigating Esports TeamSoloMid (TSM) founder and CEO, Andy “Reginald” Dinh for workplace misconduct.[/caption]

According to reports, the team owner verbally abused and bullied current and former employees and esports players. Riot Games, which operates the League of Legends Championship Series in which TSM competes, launched the investigation late last year, alongside TSM as well.

“As the league operator, we have engaged the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP to conduct an independent investigation into claims of misconduct made against the leader of this team, in accordance with standard league process,” said an email sent by Riot Games to WIRED on Tuesday.

The allegation first came out when former TSM player Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng spoke up on his Twitch Livestream.

“He’s like a bully who gets away with being a bad person because he’s powerful and because people are afraid to stand up to him, and that’s what I’m sick of,” said Peng who’s sick of “a bully” who passes because it’s in everyone’s best interest to not get in his way.

After that, several currents and former TSM employees spoke up about similar complaints.

To date, both Riot and Dinh have declined to comment on any allegations, citing to wait on the ongoing investigative process to finish. Dinh, 29, founded TSM in 2009. Before taking over the managerial position, he was the captain for TSM for four years.

TSM, Dinh, toxic workplace

According to Forbes, TSM, which is based in Playa Vista, has become the world’s most valuable esports organization with an estimated valuation of USD 410 million and annual revenues of USD 45 million. Originally named TSM FTX, the group changed its name to TSM after cutting a USD 210 million naming rights deal with a Hong Kong cryptocurrency exchange.

TSM manages esports teams and has contracts with multiple players and streamers of various games, from Fortnite, Valorant, Apex Legends, Super Smash Bros., and other games. They have also made their name with the competitive League of Legends, attracting international fans.

The Southern California-based company currently has 51 full-time employees. WIRED revealed that several chose TSM because of its high status in the esports world.

However, they are disheartened by Dinh’s alleged “mental abuse”. Since the world of esports is young, the industry is tight-knit yet “toxic”. Since Dinh is close to other esports team owners and professionals, many were hesitant to speak up against him.

Four unnamed individuals who used to work with TSM also opened up how the work-life in the esports organization is dominated by fear. Back in 2013, Dinh was known to verbally abuse and yell at employees by calling them “stupid” or “worthless”. Two sources also recalled being called after hours by Dinh to be screamed at. Sometimes, he got very angry due to small mistakes.

“A normal boss who thought you were doing a bad job would give you feedback. [At TSM], it was like, ‘This is trash’ or ‘You’re awful,’” says one current employee. His management style was so bad that the career path within the company was stunted, and some employees were held back or held themselves back to avoid being promoted to working directly under Dinh.

In his defense, Dinh told WIRED over email that he has “exceedingly high expectations for myself”, and for everyone, he works with. He also set an “extremely high bar” and when it’s not achieved he directly and bluntly shared feedback, although he admitted that back then his words might be “too harsh and ineffective.”