Harmonix has joined Daybreak in distancing itself from an investment firm tied to a Russian oligarch. A representative for the studio today told GamesIndustry.biz that contrary to reports and a press release from former parent company Viacom, it has never been associated with Columbus Nova.
"Harmonix is not, and has never been, affiliated with Columbus Nova," the representative said. "Columbus Nova was not involved in the purchase of Harmonix from Viacom and has never been involved in Harmonix's operations. Jason Epstein, who previously worked for Columbus Nova, is a Harmonix investor and board member."
When asked how that fit with a 2010 Viacom press release announcing the sale of Harmonix "to Harmonix-SBE Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Columbus Nova, LLC," the representative said, "That was incorrect and is a point we have corrected multiple times over the last 7+ years."
GamesIndustry.biz could not find a record of those corrections.
Formal ties to Columbus Nova became an issue last month after the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of State froze all the assets of a number of Russian oligarchs and their companies under US jurisdiction, and prohibited Americans from dealing with them. Among the Russian companies named was Renova Group, which has for years been seen as the parent company of Columbus Nova.
As reported by CNN, Columbus Nova disputes that view, saying it is owned and operated by US citizens, and simply counts Renova Group as its largest client. It's worth noting that in its Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Columbus Nova Investments IV Ltd. gives its business address as "C/O Renova US Management LLC," which a representative of Columbus Nova said is simply the formal name of the company.
Shortly after the sanctions were imposed, Daybreak released a statement apologizing for announcing that it had been acquired by Columbus Nova in 2015, rather than Epstein personally, as the studio now says is the case. Soon after that, the company's chief publishing officer left ahead of a round of layoffs.
[UPDATE]: When asked for examples of Harmonix's multiple corrections regarding its relationship to Columbus Nova, the representative first pointed to a VentureBeat article which referred to Daybreak as "the first game investment of Columbus Nova," then later a 2011 Boston Globe article that reports Viacom sold the studio to a handful of new owners including Epstein.