Immortals’ standing in the League of Legends community has taken a beaten towards the tail end of 2016. After failing to reach the World Championship – reportedly employing some shady tactics in the process – Immortals stock was at an all time low. Since that point, Immortals CEO Noah Whinston has single-handedly rebuilt the reputation of his brand – his handling of the Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon transfer in particular, was a class act.
A great deal has changed at Immortals over the past few weeks – the majority of their 2016 starting roster and management team have adopted to abandon ship following an ultimately deflating season. Immortals bore the brunt of some considerably negative press for a number of weeks towards the end of the NA LCS Summer Split.
Apparently desperate to automatically qualify for the World Championship, Immortals were initially accused of refusing to scrim Team SoloMid, a loss for whom would secure Immortals progression. The team were immediately called out by TSM’s AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng after it was confirmed IMT would have to play in the Gauntlet:
Doublelift: Hopes C9 wins gauntlet because IMT didn’t want to play C9 again and refused to scrim TSM, which was “a scummy thing to do.”
— Tim Sevenhuysen (@TimSevenhuysen) August 29, 2016
— Noah Whinston (@NWhinston) August 29, 2016
“Well, now that this is over, I can say that I really hope Immortals loses because they really really wanted us to lose and they wouldn’t scrim us, so we had a pretty low practice coming into the finals.”
Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
The scandal marked a low point for the Immortals squad, who would go on to play out their last ever game as a team against Cloud9 in the Gauntlet finals.
With their season having reached its conclusion, there were no further opportunities for the team to salvage their reputation with their performances on the rift. Instead, it was time for CEO Noah Whinston to step up to the plate for his organisation. What followed was a series of organisational decisions that reaffirmed the brand’s values and philosophies.
Whinston has since successfully underlined Immortals as one of the most endeared League of Legends teams in North America.
— Immortals (@Immortals) December 6, 2016
Whinston first step towards rebuilding his team’s brand image was his decision to allow Immortals’ former Jungler, Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, to join Counter Logic Gaming for their World Championship bootcamp.
Immortals were justly portrayed as ‘helping out a fellow NA brother in arms’, working to completely contradict any lingering ‘selfish’ labels that may have still existed after the Team SoloMid scrimming drama. In offering the services of their star player to a native rival, IMT immediately put themselves back on favourable terms with the League of Legends community, acquiring a number of fans in the process.
However, Noah Whinston’s finest moment was yet to come. With three of his 2016 League of Legends roster destined for the exit, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Eugene “Pobelter” Park were the only remaining members of the team. Whinston succeeded in securing contracts for both his Top and Mid laner… but it was at this point that SK Telecom T1 came calling.
“For clarity, this was not a poaching scenario, Huni had permission to speak with teams, and there was no buyout of the contract or any other transaction around it.
“Turning the dreams of a player into a trade or dealmaking is not something I have any interest in doing.
“Good luck in SKT Huni, I’ll be cheering for you.”
Noah Whinston, Immortals CEO
See a lot of people saying we prioritized the good of @SKT_Huni over the good of the Immortals organization…
— Noah Whinston (@NWhinston) December 2, 2016
…Categorically untrue. If we kept him locked in, it would have betrayed the our core values. Might as well not exist at that point
— Noah Whinston (@NWhinston) December 2, 2016
Whinston has been keen to emphasise that the organisation hasn’t made any sacrifices in doing what they believe to be ‘the right thing to do’ – though many fans understandably consider the loss of a world class Top Laner for no financial gain to be quite the opposite.
The organisations overwhelming victory has been won well away from any LCS or international stage. The team, and Noah Whinston in particular, have been placed on a pedestal for their integrity and brand values.
After suffering through so much in recent weeks, nearly everyone is hoping that the soon-to-be-announced roster mount a series title challenge in 2017. Noah deserves to see his team play at a World Championship.