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Fanatics Takes Topps After Swiping MLB Licensing Deal

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Published: January 14th, 2022

Months after swiping a longtime licensing agreement from Topps Co. to market Major League Baseball cards, Fanatics Inc. has acquired the iconic trading card brand.

Fanatics did not disclose a valuation for the completed deal in a Tuesday, Jan. 4, statement, but various reports valued it at $500 million. Michael Rubin, CEO and founder of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Fanatics and co-owner of the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers, also addressed the deal on Twitter on Tuesday.

Former Walt Disney Co. (DIS) chair Michael Eisner’s Tornante Co. LLC and Madison Dearborn Partners LLC purchased Topps in 2007 for $385 million following a battle with rival trading card seller Upper Deck Co. LLC.

In April 2020, special purpose acquisition company Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corp. II (MUDS) and Topps announced a $1.3 billion business combination. The pair called off the deal months later, however, after Major League Baseball and its players union announced they were choosing to let their contracts with Topps lapse. Fanatics ended up winning the contracts; the Topps deal will accelerate its ability to make MLB cards from 2026 to 2022.

Fanatics also holds licensing rights with the NBA and its players association, as well as the National Football League Players Association. Topps has rights deals with Major League Soccer, Formula 1, the European governing body for soccer and Bundesliga, Germany’s top-level soccer league.

The sellers retained Topps’ candy and gift card business as part of the Tuesday deal.

A Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz team led by Andrew J. Nussbaum and Gregory E. Ostling provided counsel to the buyer.

The Topps-Fanatics deal was first reported on Monday. The seller did not disclose advisers in its Tuesday announcement though Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Kirkland & Ellis LLP were Topps’ advisers on the SPAC deal.

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