On March 19, TSM fired League of Legends coach and head of player development Peter Zhang, citing “serious allegations of conflict of interest.” Sources told that the reasons for his firing stemmed from an agent-style arrangement in which he would secure Chinese and Taiwanese player’s spots on the team in exchange for a cut of their earnings.
TSM made the unexpected announcement on March 19th that League of Legends coach Zhang “Peter Zhang” Yi’s contract would be terminated immediately.
According to the LCS organization’s brief statement, they were recently made aware of serious allegations of conflict of interest and unethical behavior against League of Legends coach Peter Zhang
This is the most recent in a long line of controversies surrounding the TSM brand. Despite their status as one of North America’s most popular esports organizations, they have been repeatedly chastised for serious management errors.
Former President Leena Xu was embroiled in a long controversy over her relationship with then-player Yiliang ‘Doublelift’ Peng, which constituted a conflict of interest by most professional standards because she was directly responsible for deciding whether or not he was rehired and the terms of his contract.
This later erupted into even more controversy when she leaked details of the team’s former jungler Joshua ‘Dardoch’ Hartnett’s struggles to find a new home on Peng’s stream, information that severely weakened Hartnett’s bargaining power.
Peng would leave TSM at the end of 2021 and openly discuss his negative experiences with the company’s owner, Andy ‘Reginald’ Dinh. Xu, coach Sren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg, and General Manager Parth Naidu would all leave after Peng. This would lead to a public report on Wired revealing that Dinh was being investigated for bullying and harassment by both an independent body appointed by TSM and Riot Games.
Given their recent proximity to controversy, many speculated on the severity of the offenses that led to Yi’s termination by TSM.
A common narrative on Reddit and Twitter was that it had to do with match-fixing, which resulted in the suspension of 38 players, managers, and coaches across the Chinese LPL and LDL divisions in April 2021.
LCS Commissioner Jackie Felling made a point in the subsequent Reddit thread reacting to Yi’s firing to try to put an end to match-fixing speculation and many can now confirm the reasons for Peter Zhang’s abrupt departure, based on our own investigation.
According to sources familiar with the situation, he used his coaching position to enrich himself by accepting money in exchange for ensuring that certain Taiwanese or Chinese players were added to the roster. He would take a percentage of their earnings as a fee for guaranteeing their acquisition to TSM, effectively positioning himself as both a team coach and an international agent.
According to the allegations, Yi would work with management to select players for the roster, then approach the player in question and offer to act as their “agent,” claiming that if they allowed him to represent them, he could get them on the TSM roster.
For brokering the deal, he would take a cut of the players’ earnings, which was often much higher than a standard agent’s fee.
Furthermore, the same source informed us that Yi was borrowing large sums of money from numerous figures within the TSM organization, including players from both the main and academy rosters. The purpose of this money, which Yi described as “considerable” in total, is unclear, though he did mention a medical emergency involving his grandparents. Although the veracity of this claim is unknown, when affected parties voiced their concerns about the loans, they began to be repaid. Almost all of the money has been recouped as of the time of reporting.
Riot Games is currently investigating the matter of these loans, and will most likely expand their investigation to include any impropriety surrounding his dual role as a team coach and player agent.
According to Yi, the allegations explained that they were either a misunderstanding or a malicious framing of the events.
First, he clarified that he was never acting as a player agent. He admitted that he was paid a percentage of TSM Academy player Wang “Yursan” Sheng-monthly Yu’s salary of $1000, but that this money was going to his actual agent and that he was just a middleman.
He added that as a US Green Card holder with bank accounts in both countries, he had frequently exchanged Yen for dollars for players across the squad. These transactions, he believes, may give the appearance of wrongdoing.
In response to the need for emergency loans, he stated that he had a family emergency and provided documentation that he had requested time off to return to China for this reason. His former player Hu “SwordArT” Shuo-Chieh, on the other hand, prompted the need for the loans.
During SwordArT’s time on the team, he worked with Yi to sell a $80,000 car he had purchased for use during his time in the United States, according to Yi. Shuo-Chieh asked Yi to sell the car for him and send him the money after he returned to China to play for Weibo Gaming. Yi had kept the money from the car sale and was delaying payment due to his grandmother’s surgery.
Shuo-Chieh had demanded the money earlier in the month, stating that if he was not paid, he would go public with the debt. Yi turned to the players in the organization for loans after the money was spent to ensure the matter was not made public.
During our conversation with Yi, he showed us receipts for transactions he claims were for money exchanges done with the full knowledge and consent of the other parties involved.
Yi is currently planning to return to China before TSM makes any public statements. TSM is reportedly considering legal action saying that they have no additional comment beyond their original statement at this time.