Daybreak says it has ‘no affiliation’ with Columbus Nova, the company it said bought it in 2015

    
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Note: We’ve updated this piece heavily at the end with Daybreak’s statements and further links.

A chain of business connections could have a real and dire impact on Daybreak Games Company following the freezing of company assets by the U.S. government.

On April 6th, the U.S. Department of the Treasury targeted several Russian oligarchs and froze their assets due to “destabilizing activities” by these figures (including suspected interference in the 2016 U.S. election). One of the oligarchs so punished was Viktor Vekselberg, who owns the Renova Group conglomerate and its subsidiary, Columbus Nova. [Eds.: Daybreak began disputing this part as of April 27th; see updates below.]

Columbus Nova, you may recall, is the parent company of Daybreak Games. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has given Renova and other Russian companies until June 5th to “wind down operations, contracts, or other agreements” involving these figures.

Between $1.5 and $2 billion assets from Vekselberg have been frozen as the result of these sanctions. It is unclear if any of Columbus Nova’s assets are part of this. Renova isn’t commenting on the situation, but EverQuest II players and other Daybreak Games users are starting to legitimately worry about the future of their games as this information has come to life.

Worth pointing out is that the company announced H1Z1’s PS4 port this morning, which doesn’t seem like the actions of a studio about to go up in flames – but then tell that to the CCP team blindsided at last year’s EVE Vegas.

We reached out to Daybreak’s PR last night about the status of Daybreak, its titles, and the Standing Stone Games titles it publishes; we’ll keep you posted when we receive a response. [Updated below.]

Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Meduza, Reuters. Thanks Victor, Nick, and Henrik!

Update #1

Daybreak issued to Massively OP the following statement stating that it is not in fact owned by Columbus Nova, which should lift more than a few eyebrows:

“Daybreak Game Company has no affiliation with Columbus Nova. Jason Epstein, former member of Columbus Nova, is and has always been the primary owner and executive chairman of Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) which he acquired from Sony in February 2015.”

Readers will recall that it was widely reported that investment firm Columbus Nova bought SOE from Sony in 2015. In fact, in the original announcement on February 2nd, 2015, John Smedley himself said exactly that: “Today, we are pleased to announce that we have been acquired by Columbus Nova, an investment management firm well known for its success with its existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies.” That wasn’t just Smed talking it up; here’s the original press release, complete with quote from Epstein.

Click to reveal 2015 press release from Daybreak
SAN DIEGO – February 2, 2015 – Columbus Nova, an investment management firm based in New York, announced today that it has completed its acquisition of Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE), a recognized worldwide leader in massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and emergent gameplay.

Best known for its community-first approach, and blockbuster hits and franchises including EverQuest®, PlanetSide®2, DC Universe™ Online, H1Z1™, Landmark™ and the highly-anticipated EverQuest Next™, SOE has developed compelling online entertainment for a variety of platforms since 1999.

With the completion of the transaction, SOE will now operate as an independent game development studio and will continue to focus on creating quality online games, providing excellent service to its extensive player base, while centering on its untapped potential as a multi-platform online gaming company. Along with the transaction, SOE will be rebranded and operate under the new name of Daybreak Game Company LLC (www.DaybreakGameCompany.com).

“Sony Online Entertainment, newly rebranded as Daybreak, is a great addition to our existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies. We see tremendous opportunities for growth with the expansion of the company’s game portfolio through multi-platform offerings as well as an exciting portfolio of new quality games coming up, including the recently launched H1Z1 and the highly anticipated EverQuest Next to be released in the near future,” said Jason Epstein, Senior Partner of Columbus Nova. “The recent Early Access launch success of H1Z1 is just one testament to the talent and dedication of the studio’s developers to create great online gaming experiences.”

“We are excited to join Columbus Nova’s impressive roster of companies. They have a proven track record in similar and related industries and we are eager to move forward to see how we can push the boundaries of online gaming,” said John Smedley, President, Daybreak Game Company. “We will continue to focus on delivering exceptional games to players around the world, as well as bringing our portfolio to new platforms, fully embracing the multi-platform world in which we all live.”

The company has seen multiple Columbus Nova representatives cycle through leadership positions in the last three years. It is not clear when exactly Columbus Nova, Daybreak, and Jason Epstein severed ties. As MOP commenters have pointed out, Bloomberg still lists Epstein as a managing partner at Columbus Nova, though Epstein’s personal Linkedin claims he left at the end of 2017. We have reached out to Daybreak again for clarification. -Bree

Update #2

Daybreak tells us that its original press statements about Columbus Nova acquiring Daybreak were an error on the part of the company and that it is correcting that error now.

“It was current executive chairman Jason Epstein, former senior managing partner of Columbus Nova that acquired Daybreak, not Columbus Nova itself. That distinction was never corrected in the past, so we are correcting that now,” a Daybreak spokesperson told us.

MOP commenters have pointed out that a Wikipedia account called Daybreakpr was blocked earlier this month – right around the time the sanctions were announced – for editing the Daybreak wikipedia entry to reiterate the claim that Epstein, not CN, has always owned the company. -Bree

Update #3

Daybreak has now apparently deleted the 2015 press release from its servers, as the link we quoted from earlier today is now returning a 404 error. It remains quoted in full above. And as @DkTanic tweeted to us (and ventyred posted in the comments), the Daybreak privacy policy from 2015 also refers to CN as its parent company, which is how we referred to CN in this piece’s original title and slug and which Daybreak told us by email was inaccurate:

“Daybreak Games may share your Personal Information for the purposes described in this Privacy Policy (except for direct marketing) with its parent companies, which consist of Columbus Nova Private Equity Group (‘CN’) and any company controlled by CN that directly or indirectly owns fifty percent (50%) or more of the outstanding equity in
Daybreak.”

Final update (4/27)

As Daybreak now claims Renova also doesn’t own Columbus Nova, we are amending our title once again. Additional updates – and there are many – can all be found in the posts below.

Get caught up on the whole Daybreak/Columbus Nova ordeal:

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Adam Russell

I think that regardless of any press announcement or etc, it would be trivial for the US government to find out who owns dbg. These things have paper trails. Its really not about he said she said. Making a claim like that that you could not back up when the state dept looks into it would be just ridiculous. If there is any question of “were you lying before or lying now”, it makes much more sense that they lied before (or miscommunicated, whatever) and are telling the truth now.

Reader
CPTGLORIOUSBEARD

“Worth pointing out is that the company announced H1Z1’s PS4 port this morning, which doesn’t seem like the actions of a studio about to go up in flames”

Forgot about gazillion and marvel heroes eh?

Reader
John D A

DBG were warned about this in 2015. I know because I was one of the people who warned them that they were going to be investigated for money laundering. The result was that I was banned from their Twitter and other forums. They should have listened, lying, incompetent assholes that they are.

Reader
Jay Jones

How can DBG say they have nothing to do with it when Daybreak Games Officially announced it IS affiliated with Columbus Nova, back in 2015. Were they lying then, or are they lying now?

https://web.archive.org/web/20180424175013/https://www.daybreakgames.com/press/columbus-nova-acquires-sony-online-entertainment

Daybreak Game Company>The Feed>Press
COLUMBUS NOVA ACQUIRES SONY ONLINE ENTERTAINMENT

Reader
Adam Russell

Were they lying in a PR statement or are they lying to the State Dept? Which makes more sense?

Reader
Santiago Draco

EQ2 hasn’t been taken seriously by Daybreak, other than milking it’s current subscribers, for years. Every expansion is simply a rehash of the same old shit with no attempts to actually improve class balance or add anything other than incredibly simplistic environments and content. I used to LOVE the game but I’m done now and won’t feel it’s loss.

Woetoo
Reader
Woetoo

Today in other shock news:

  • Google now claim that they are not owned by Alphabet.
  • McDonalds claim any association with the McRib is wholly coincidental.
  • Apple have said Steve Jobs never actually worked for them and have removed all references to him from their website.
  • Star Citizen have said they they’ve changed their mind again and plan to use UnrealEngine for their final game release, sometime in 2029.
  • .
    Oh hang on, that last one might be true.

    a_me
    Reader
    a_me

    They might have deleted it on the official daybreak page but its still present in all subforums of each game e.g. DC Universe Online: https://forums.daybreakgames.com/dcuo/index.php?threads/sony-online-entertainment-becomes-daybreak-game-company.236045/

    “Today, we are pleased to announce that we have been acquired by Columbus Nova”

    Their attempt of cover up the truth is on a 6yr child amateur level…

    Reader
    Alexander Tello

    Is there hope that someone else might buy the Everquest franchise?
    Maybe Blizzard ?

    Reader
    syberghost

    Can they even enter into new contracts at this point? Selling may not be an option.

    Reader
    Adam Russell

    They have until June 5th to divest themselves from Vekselberg.

    Reader
    syberghost

    Yep. In order to do so, they’ve either got to have enough in the bank to keep developing games and keep the existing ones running, or convince creditors to extend them credit without CN covering their butts. Stuff that isn’t making money is in serious danger, and people who’d be tempted to buy their IP know that whatever the offer is today, it’ll be a lot cheaper June 4th.

    Bree Royce
    Staff
    Bree Royce

    We’ve posted a fresh thread and update, this one on a prominent Daybreak exec who just bailed today:

    Daybreak update: Chief Publishing Officer Laura Naviaux has left the company

    Reader
    Vincent Clark

    The shit is about to hit the fan methinks…

    Reader
    Neiloch

    uh oh

    tenor (1).gif
    Reader
    David Harrison

    Ok, so to recap what we have found so far (in these comments).

    1. Owner of Renova had his assets frozen by the US Treasury
    2. Renova owns Columbus Nova
    3. Columbus Nova owns Daybreak Games
    4. Daybreak Games puts out statement that Columbus Nova never owned them
    5. The press release from 2015 said Columbus Nova bought SoE
    6. The press release from 2015 quoted John Smedley talking about working for Columbus Nova
    7. The press release from 2015 had a blurb at the bottom of it talking about Columbus Nova
    8. The press release from 2015’s url was “https://www.daybreakgames.com/press/columbus-nova-acquires-sony-online-entertainment”
    9. The press release web page was deleted from the Daybreak Games website yesterday
    10. The privacy policy for Daybreak Games in 2017 stated that they could share your data with their parent company Columbus Nova
    11. The privacy policy was later altered, and the reference to Columbus Nova was removed
    12. Wiki entries mentioning Columbus Nova being the parent company of Daybreak Games was altered to remove Columbus Nova from them yesterday
    13. The IP addresses for the person(s) who made the edits to the wiki entries was traced back to Renova which is the parent company of Columbus Nova

    This is straight up Hollywood movie level scandal shit here boys and girls.

    Reader
    dsmart

    Yes. All of that. Well done recap :)

    demonstar55
    Reader
    demonstar55

    2017 privacy policy didn’t mention Columbus Nova, the 2015 one did. The 2017 one just doesn’t define “affiliates,” which is probably still Columbus Nova.

    a_me
    Reader
    a_me

    “This is straight up Hollywood movie level scandal shit here boys and girls.” More like Scandal TV series level. Wait until Shonda Rhimes reveals herself behind this as the first real-life show with actual consequences.

    The old press release can be still found (as per usual) here: https://web.archive.org/web/20180424175013/https://www.daybreakgames.com/press/columbus-nova-acquires-sony-online-entertainment

    Not like the internet will forget anything.

    Reader
    Cyro-Nydd

    Your list only needs bullet points for legibility, otherwise great work!