Cambridge games company Jagex acquired by CVC Capital Partners and Haveli Investments
Jagex has been acquired by global private equity and investment advisory firm CVC Capital Partners and Haveli Investments.
The Cambridge games developer and publisher, which had been acquired by Carlyle in 2021, said the new owners would help it expand its “portfolio of forever games”.
Terms of the deal with Carlyle were not disclosed, although reports speculated the deal was worth £900million.
Jagex, which employs more than 700 people, worldwide including at its headquarters on Cambridge Science Park, has generated $1.5billion in lifetime revenue from Runescape, its flagship franchise, which has been running for 23 years and boasts 300 million lifetime accounts, 2.4 million active subscribers and more than a million free-to-play users. The MMORPG - massively multiplayer online role-playing game - is one of the most successful games of its type.
It achieved record numbers of subscribers for RuneScape and Old School RuneScape in 2023, but did come under fire from players for the introduction of a controversial ‘Hero Pass’, which featured pay-to-win microtransactions. Following a backlash from players, it ended Hero Pass after its first season on December 4, admitting it was a “misstep” and “not reflective of a direction we're taking RuneScape in”.
There has been something of a revolving door of owners at Jagex.
Founded in 2000, it was acquired in 2016 by Shanghai Hongtou Network Technology, a company within Chinese games firm Fukong Interactive Entertainment, which sold it to US-based global management firm Macarthur Fortune Holding, via one of its funds, Platinum Fortune, for $530m in April 2020.
A year later, Washington DC private equity firm Carlyle acquired a controlling stake in Jagex - with the price rumoured to be greater than $530m - and said the aim was to grow the company through mergers and acquisitions.
True to its word, Jagex snapped up Pipeworks and Gamepires in 2022 to expand its cross-platform capabilities and brought its expertise to Gamepires’ SCUM, an open-world survival title in Steam Early Access that will be launched on PC and console in 2024.
Throughout all four ownerships, Phil Mansell has remained to steer Jagex as CEO.
He said: “I’m delighted to welcome CVC Capital Partners and Haveli Investments as strategic partners for Jagex. CVC and Haveli will help Jagex build on our portfolio of forever games, furthering our aims of supporting and growing our community of forever fans.
“Together we’ll create more of the experiences our fans love, innovate to empower our players further, and build new forever games that capture imaginations.
“The support from Carlyle has been exceptional, and that success has positioned Jagex for the future. With the continued growth of our flagship RuneScape franchise, we’re crafting more adventures to delight our forever fans, and we’re excited about the future, as we create new experiences that play to our strengths of putting our communities at the heart of everything we do.”
He added: “Jagex has transformed significantly in recent years thanks to the hard work of our entire team as well as the insight and expertise we have leveraged through our partnership with Carlyle. Through our successful partnership with Carlyle we have already seen the benefits of working with experienced, global financial sponsors.
“The video gaming sector has huge potential, and with CVC and Haveli’s support, I am confident that we can continue to enhance our platform for the good of both our existing valued gamers and potential new gamers yet to experience our products.”
In a statement from Carlyle, Patrick McCarter, MD and co-head of global technology, and Andrew Tan, principal in the CETP investment advisory team, said: “We are proud to have partnered with Jagex at such an important point in its development. The investment and innovation delivered by the team over the last few years has strengthened Jagex’s position as a leader in forever games with a unique and world-class platform.
“This success illustrates the capabilities of Carlyle’s global platform, with our European and US technology teams collaborating to support Jagex’s growth, and we believe the business is now well-placed to build upon its position as one of the most exciting games developers today. It has been a pleasure to work with Phil and the team, and we wish the company every success on this next chapter.”
Luxembourg-based CVC Capital Partners is one of the world’s largest private equity firms, managing assets worth more than €188bn. It is invested in sport around the world, including the Gujarat Titans, LaLiga, Lique De Football Professionnel, Premiership Rugby and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), and brings experience in growing fan-focused businesses.
CVC Capital Partners said it is eyeing continued subscriber and revenue growth for Jagex, alongside a community-driven philosophy as it builds on the success of RuneScape and Old School RuneScape and creates more games under the Jagex brand.
Nick Clarry, managing partner and head of CVC’s sports, media and entertainment team, said: “CVC has followed the video games space for many years with great interest. We are huge fans of the RuneScape games, the large global community of players, and the games-as-a-service capability at Jagex.
“Our ambition is to bring relevant experience from our sports, media and entertainment assets to help realise the full potential of Jagex over the years ahead. This will involve continuing to improve the existing RuneScape games, the accessibility to games on various platforms, and reinvesting into new IP content to create the exciting games of tomorrow.”
Haveli Investments is a US private equity firm based in Austin, Texas, with a Gaming Fund that has previously invested in London-based Omeda Studios, which has a title, Predecessor, currently in early access, Montreal-based Behaviour Interactive, the developer and publisher behind the online horror title Dead by Daylight, and Tel Aviv-based Candivore, the developer and publisher of the category leading mobile hit Match Masters.
Brian Sheth, chief investment officer at Haveli Investments, said: “We, along with CVC, are thrilled to partner with Jagex, a premier player in gaming. We have been following Jagex closely since we first began implementing our gaming investment strategy, and we believe it is among the most innovative and creative companies across gaming with a large and loyal player base, operating in an attractive, growing market where they’ve been a leader for more than two decades.
“We are excited to work with Phil and the Jagex team, along with CVC, to take its flagship franchise RuneScape to the next level.”
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals.
The financial advisors on the transaction for Carlyle were Morgan Stanley and Aream, and Goldman Sachs advised the transaction vehicle to be funded by CVC Fund VIII and Haveli.