In an increasingly-rare piece of transactional news, online retailer Fanatics has reached an agreement to acquire renowned trading card company Topps Sports & Entertainment, per Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams of Sportico. Topps Sports & Entertainment represents the trading card and digital collectible portion of the greater The Topps Co. enterprise. The deal is worth $500MM, according to Jared Diamond and Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal.
News of tonight’s reported deal comes in the wake of last year’s revelation that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA would not be renewing their longstanding agreement with Topps. Instead, both the league and players union pivoted and partnered with Fanatics on a long-term licensing deal, granting the online sports retailer with exclusive trading card licenses.
Though the Fanatics Trading Cards brand has yet to launch a single product, recent valuations for this portion of the Fanatics enterprise have skyrocketed. Thanks in part to renewed trading card interest by hobbyists during the past two years, a recent valuation of Fanatics Trading Cards now stands at $10.4 billion. Both the MLB and MLBA are equity holders in Fanatics’ new trading card venture, creating an ongoing revenue source for both parties.
In a piece by The Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond and Andrew Beaton note that Fanatics’ original August deal with MLB wasn’t set to begin until after the 2025 season. Likewise, licensing deals with the NFL and NBA were also a few years from kicking in, slowing Fanatics’ push into the trading card space. Acquiring the Topps Sports & Entertainment division now, however, will allow Fanatics to accelerate its foray into this portion of the hobby market years ahead of schedule. In addition to immediate distribution rights of baseball cards, Fanatics also picks up Major League Soccer, UEFA, and Formula One licenses in the deal.
Implications of this acquisition will be far-reaching, though it most directly increases Fanatics hold on a growing industry. The Topps Company will now see business operations span only its candy and gift card divisions, barring further activity from the company’s ownership group. Sports leagues across the world are now primed to see increased revenue streams thanks to their newly cut licensing deals and equity stakes with Fanatics.
For baseball and its players union, this news looms against a still-stagnant lockout backdrop. The financial ramifications of this deal are unlikely to have any immediate impact on the state of the lockout, though it appears another party, Fanatics, now has its interests more wholly aligned with the 2022 baseball season being conducted as scheduled.