Fanatics has reached an agreement to buy the Topps trading card business, according to people familiar with the plans, a move that is likely to accelerate the recent pressure into the booming industry.
Michael Rubin’s company acquires Topps Sports & Entertainment, the business unit that includes physical cards and digital collectibles, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the negotiations are private. The rest of The Topps Co., including the Bazooka Candy Brands confectionery, will remain with the current owners, private equity firm Madison Dearborn and Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company, the people said.
It is unclear how much Fanatics pays in the agreement. A representative of Fanatics declined to comment. Representatives of Topps, Tornante and did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment, while Madison Dearborn declined to comment.
Fanatics, the world̵[ads1]7;s largest retailer of licensed sportswear, shocked the trading card industry in August when it secured exclusive long-term trading card licenses from a handful of sports leagues and unions (including rights to MLB and MLBPA currently owned by Topps). The news changed the entire industry, which saw renewed interest during the pandemic, and rejected a SPAC acquisition of Topps that valued the company at $ 1.6 billion.
Topps was founded in 1938 and currently has these baseball rights, plus a number of other card agreements, including agreements with F1, UEFA, the Bundesliga and Disney (Eisner’s former company). It is unclear whether Fanatics intends to use the Topps name in the future, or whether they plan to replace Topps with their own name.
Although it has not yet released a single product, Fanatics Trading Cards were valued at $ 10.4 billion in a financing round last year. Fanatics owns about 80% of the company, with investors including private equity giant Silver Lake, talent agency Endeavor and VC firm Insight Partners. The NBA, NBPA, MLB, MLBPA and NFLPA, all of which have trading card agreements with Fanatics that will take effect over the next few years, will also be shareholders in the trading card investment, according to people familiar with the plans.
Trading cards are just one part of Fanatic’s goal of creating an e-commerce empire for sports. In addition to its core business in clothing, the company is planning a vertical sports betting, and last year launched an NFT company together with Michael Novogratz and Gary Vaynerchuk.
Topps originally planned to announce a $ 1.6 billion deal with Mudrick II, a SPAC led by value investor Jason Mudrick. That agreement fell apart in August after the news of the Fanatics licenses became known. Eisner was set to control the public company under the agreement and was on his way to a payday of $ 600 million in cash and shares.