Posted on July 5, 2018 by staff

Debbie Bestwick MBE: We floated Team17 ‘for our people’


The CEO of Team17 says she took the decision to float the legendary UK games studio on the stock market to give back to the people within her business.

Debbie Bestwick MBE has seen the value of the firm she founded in 1990 soar to around £324 million since its admission to the stock exchange – a rise of more than £100m in just six weeks.

Reports suggest she will make a personal fortune from the deal – but speaking to her, it is clear that her motivations for the IPO lie elsewhere.

“The first reason for the decision to float was our people,” she told BusinessCloud. “Absolutely nothing is more important than the people within our business – they are why we’re successful.

“This was a way for us to give back to our employees through incentive schemes and shareholdings.”

Team17 is the company behind hit franchise Worms, which started life on the Commodore Amiga in 1995 and has appeared on almost every video game platform since. Recently it topped mobile games charts in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Bestwick oversaw a management buyout of the company in 2009 as she sought to diversify its offering away from Worms – a tongue-in-cheek strategy game where rival teams of worms do battle with bizarre weapons such as exploding sheep and banana bombs – and develop new IP to “take the company back to its roots”.

The Wakefield firm’s staff has grown from around 70 to 160 in just three years after beginning to embrace independent developers. Team17 positions itself as a creative partner to these start-ups, acting as a mentor and polishing their games as well as publishing them.

The firm’s 2017 revenues were £29.6m, more than double the £13.5m from the previous year. Bestwick approached minority shareholder LDC in the middle of last year with the idea of a float to “step things up” even further.

“The IPO should help us with hiring going forward because we’ve been in fast growth for quite a while now,” she explained.

“It also helps with our profile: Team17 is incredibly well-known in the UK and across Europe, while Worms is globally famous, but by floating our label gets a higher profile both within our industry and also on an international level.

“We didn’t consider a trade sale because we’re incredibly proud to be building this company in this country. We were born in the UK, we retained our IP through some difficult times and we are insanely proud to float it on the stock exchange.”

Team17’s more recent games include Overcooked, which won two BAFTAs last year, and The Escapists – a creative game which was made by someone working on a building site.

“That’s a game which has sold in excess of three million units and Chris was putting roof tiles on houses when I met him!” Bestwick, who was working in a video game shop when she founded Team17, said.

“We’re showing developers [like him] that you can build and publish games and retain ownership of their IPs. This is so important for the next generation coming through.

“I love the fact that Grand Theft Auto was made in this country [for example], but it’s now owned by an American company.

“We need to get better at retaining ownership of our great creations. We build them up, we get them successful and then we sell. Part of doing our IPO is a message to people: you don’t need to sell.

“We’re on a journey and passionate about what we’re doing – making great games. If we make great content, everything else will follow.”