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Baseball cuts to Upper Deck and Topps for 2006

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The Major League Baseball Players Association announced it has agreed to terms with Topps and Upper Deck on new licensing arrangements that will go into effect starting January 2006. The decision means Donruss Playoff will not be producing baseball cards in 2006.

Under the new agreements, baseball cards will be designed, marketed and promoted to attract kids and new consumers, while still providing excitement and value to the current collector base. Promotional programs by licensors and manufacturers will have special appeal for baseball fans of all ages, and the presence of fewer products in the marketplace will reduce consumer confusion and clutter on retail shelves.

In making the announcement, Evan Kaplan, MLBPA Director of Trading Cards and Collectibles, said, "Our licensees recognized the need to make improvements in every aspect of the trading card business. They are fully committed to building a wide spectrum of products that will meet the expectations of all fans."

With only two baseball trading card manufacturers, the new licensing landscape will focus on strong brand presence, longer shelf life and fewer, stronger products in the marketplace to simplify the retail experience for consumers. Emphasis on marketing, promotion and product development to attract new purchasers, especially kids, will bring renewed excitement to the category.

Fans also will be pleased to learn that as of Opening Day 2006, a new "Rookie Card" logo will appear on the cards of players who make their major-league debut. No longer will a player's rookie card be produced before he reaches the Majors.

"Improving the rookie card situation is just one of the many changes that fans will see as a result of these new license agreements," said Kaplan. "We are going to kick off the 2006 season with the launch of Topps Baseball and Upper Deck Baseball at the start of Spring Training with a promotional and marketing campaign that will go throughout the year."

"We couldn't be more enthusiastic about the prospect of a cleaner, more consumer-friendly retail environment", said Scott Silverstein, president of Topps. "We believe this development will enable us to better serve our core customers and reach out to a broader base of new collectors with special emphasis on bringing back kids to the market."

“We are extremely pleased and proud to be given the opportunity to create a more comprehensive and robust marketplace to ensure the long-term preservation of our beloved hobby for future generations of baseball fans and enthusiasts,” said Richard McWilliam, Chairman and Founder of Upper Deck.

MLBPA representatives said that more information would be forthcoming but collectors should expect to see calendars for 2006 releases, retail promotions and more developments in the upcoming months. Judy Heeter, MLBPA Director of Business Affairs and Licensing, added that, "Although we are confident that the trading card category now will be most favorably positioned for future growth, the decision to move forward with only two licensees was not an easy one for us to make. We have enjoyed our personal and professional relationships with all the wonderful people at Donruss, we have the utmost respect for them and the venerable Donruss and Leaf brands, and we wish them all well."

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