Football: Love of alma mater helped prompt Kabam CEO to make $18 million Cal deal

The roots of the $18 million deal Cal announced Thursday go back 12 years, to a classroom on campus and an engineering course called Venture Design.

It was in that class that a student named Michael Li created a business plan for a video-game company that has come to be known as Kabam. It’s about to become more well-known now that Li and company co-founder Kevin Chou, another Cal student, have struck a deal to put the Kabam name on the football field at Memorial Stadium for the next 15 years.

Li was not in attendance during the deal’s formal announcement Thursday during a news conference at Memorial Stadium. He manages the company’s Beijing office. But Chou was there, surrounded by 30 Kabam employees, all Cal grads, who sat on risers behind the dais.

“This is a great Cal story,” athletic director Sandy Barbour said. “This is business, but this is personal, too.”

For Chou, it’s a commitment made partly with his heart.

“I can’t imagine a closer tie that a CEO can have with the alma mater he loves,” Chou said.

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Jeff Faraudo