The Man Behind the $8.5 Million TI11 Champion Team Tundra Esports. Russian-born Football Club Owner Maxim Demin and His Success Story

Anastasiya Dudkina
04 Nov 2022
13:20

In traditional sports, it has long been the norm to rank the club's management as champions of an event. For example, hockey fans in 2021 were outraged by the engraved names of Miller and Dyukov, the top managers of Gazprom who oversee Avangard Omsk, on the Gagarin Cup. Cybersport does not inherit this trait in its original form, but similar situations do occur: can you call Korb3n the champion of The International 2021? And Monolith as the champion of The International 2015? Easily. After Tundra's unexpected triumph at the last TI11, many remembered the organization's founder Maxim Demin: not a very media figure in the world of eSports, but a figure with a rich background. In our article, read about how the businessman from Tatarstan "molded" champions in football and Dota 2.

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A team with a Russian owner won TI 11 - he ran a football club and founded Tundra

The number of interviews with Maxim Demin can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The businessman rarely talks to journalists and hardly ever gives details of his life: nobody knows his exact date and place of birth or the activities of his wife and children. The few details we learn only from conversations with Forbes and the history of Tatneft, where Demin worked at the turn of the century.

Maxim Demin
Maxim Demin

In 1997, when Maxim was 27, a young professional from Arthur Andersen Consulting Agency was brought in to work with Tatneft. At the time, one of Russia's largest oil companies was in an extreme situation. The 1998 crisis had driven it into a $354-million debt with Western banks. Demin oversaw operations to obtain large loans, restructuring outstanding principal, and over three years rose to become an adviser to Shafagat Takhautdinov, "the oil baron of Tatarstan," who at the time was still head of Tatneft. One of the main results of the specialist's work, who knew English and Japanese, was a $200 million loan that had yet to be extended to oil companies before 2002. Demin left Tatneft in 2005, leaving behind the title of "rescuer", a good relationship with his former workplace, and funds for his own investments. The businessman held stakes in Russian banks until the 2008 crisis while simultaneously dealing with the oil industry, which was already close to his heart.

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Maxim Demin
Maxim Demin

The wife wanted our son to study in England, and then, in 2005, he had to go to school for the first time.

Maxim Demin

Demin moved to London for family reasons, quickly meeting local entrepreneur Eddy Mitchell. At the time, Maxim was planning to continue working with the financial and oil sectors had it not been for the new pals' shared passion for football. At the time, Mitchell had already reached the heights with Bournemouth: mid-table third division in the English Football League was the club's best result in 20 years, but Demin again faced a crisis. Despite Mitchell's efforts, Bournemouth were in debt to staff, losing key players, coaches, and, most importantly, unjustified finances. The Russian agreed to help:

I did not think long and hard about this decision. I have always loved football myself, I supported Torpedo Moscow in my youth, and my son loves football. It was a new game for me. What can be done with the club?

Maxim Demin

Maxim Demin loaned more than £25 million to Bournemouth until 2013, after which he bought all 100% of the shares from Eddy Mitchell. After the initial successes, the media began comparing the businessman with the legendary Roman Abramovich to the English public. This can be argued in many ways: if Abramovich is known for his tactic of 'pouring huge funds,' Demin, as befits a man with experience in consulting, has acted more economically. First, one of the strongest coaches-philosophers in the football underground was brought back to the club: with Eddie Howe, he managed to raise the team's morale and achieve in 10 years place in the English Premier League. Bournemouth later partnered with the Villa Stuart Sports Medicine Clinic as their patient Francesco Totti continued to play at the highest level at the age of 38. As a result, players' injuries were minimized, saving huge sums of money on treatment.

Bournemouth
Bournemouth

The glory of the "Russian miracle" came to Demin in 2015. Bournemouth rose to the top division of English football for the first time in history. However, Demin's only nationality remained "Russian": by then, the businessman had become a full-fledged UK resident, which allowed him to avoid sanctions in 2022. The club still holds on in the EPL, albeit without Eddie Howe and Maxim Demin. In October, the entire stake was sold to Vegas Golden Knights hockey owner Bill Foley, with the sale being double the purchase price. Maxim Demin emerged from football as a local management legend with a huge profit in his wallet.

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Klenoff
Klenoff

Demin has tried to be an innovator in everything from running a football club to ventures in business. So, in 2019, the Bournemouth owner first invested in cybersport, creating an organization called Tundra Esports. At first, it was purely football-related. Demin's club signed talented Russian players in FIFA - Klenoff, and Dav, multiple winners of the Russian championships. Betting on compatriots did not justify itself: Klenoff and Sagitov largely needed more experience on the international stage. Rogue's 2019 eWorld Cup vice-champion, Msdossary of Saudi Arabia, was called in to rectify the situation, but the rookie's results went downhill too.

After Msdossary's contract ended, Tundra briefly went into the shadows, and Maxim Demin had to deal with a sport other than the ball game for the first time: the organization signed the mudgolems mix on 25 January 2021. In the early seasons, DPC managed to maintain a place in the top division at least, and by the end of 2021, the prize money had exceeded $300,000.

Tundra
Tundra

The rest is history. OG's Saksa replaced Fata, who went to conquer North America. With such a squad, the team finished third at the ESL One Stockholm Major - enough to automatically qualify for The International 11 via the Dota Pro Circuit table.

Since his club's victory at The International, Maxim Demin is considered the owner-champion twice: first, it was Championships in 2015, now it is the main tournament of the year, not only in Dota 2 but in the entire world of cybersport.

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