Fanatics, which acquired the rights to produce baseball, basketball and football cards last year, will not have to wait to dive into the baseball card market after reaching a deal to purchase Topps, which has been producing baseball cards for 70 years.
Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin confirmed the purchase Tuesday morning.
Rubin also confirmed that the iconic Topps brand will remain on all baseball cards for the foreseeable future.
Topps also confirmed the purchase on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
Fanatics further explained the deal Tuesday through a statement from Rubin.
“With trading cards and collectibles being a significant pillar of our long-term plans to become the leading digital sports platform, we are excited to add a leading trading cards company to build out our business,” Rubin stated. “Their iconic brand, commitment to product excellence and passionate employees worldwide will allow us to immediately serve our league and players’ association partners and our fans.”
Rubin explained how the deal came together in an interview with WSJ.
"We wanted to start with a foundation that was in place," Rubin told the WSJ. "That’s a much better approach than building this from scratch.
"We have a vision to expand and do new things to grow new businesses. A lot of times we’ll look to, 'Is it faster to build pieces or to buy pieces?' And if it makes more sense to buy, we’re very happy to do that."
Fanatics Trading Cards will retain all of the 350 Topps employees in its sports and entertainment division. Topps Global VP/GM David Leiner and VP/GM Topps Digital Tobin Lent will continue to run Topps within Fanatics Trading Cards, a separate subsidiary of Fanatics. They will report directly to Doug Mack, Fanatics Inc. Vice Chairman and Fanatics Commerce CEO.
“The strong emotional connection between Topps collectibles and consumers of all ages — built through 70 years of tradition, starting with the Shorin family — will make it a jewel in the Fanatics portfolio,” said Michael Eisner, owner of Topps parent company Tornante. “Michael Rubin is the perfect entrepreneur to lead this company forward. Like any crown jewel, I and my partners at Madison Dearborn will miss our many years of ownership where we grew a highly profitable business through strategic licensing partnerships, global expansion, and digital transformation. We’re proud of what the Topps team has accomplished, and we look forward to seeing what Michael and his team do to continue growing the Topps collectible business while staying true to its iconic history and relevance to consumers.”
Fanatics made a dramatic move into the sports card industry in August with news that it had acquired the licenses to produce baseball, basketball and football cards beginning in 2023. Its deal with MLB Players Association was set to begin in 2023, with its deals with MLB, the NBA and its players association and the NFL Players Association taking affect in 2026.
Now the new Fanatics Trading Cards company will begin manufacturing and distributing baseball cards under the Topps brand immediately.
Also See: Fanatics CEO outlines vision for future
Topps has been synonymous with baseball cards for the past seven decades. The company was on the verge of going public in August in a deal that valued Topps at more than $1 billion. But Fanatics’ exclusive deal with MLB upended that deal, putting the future of Topps in question.
Fanatics’ deal with MLB was set to begin in 2026, but its deal with the MLB players kicked in next year. Now it has taken over a Topps company with 350 employees and some of the most successful products in hobby history. It also accelerates Fanatics’ control over an industry in the midst of a boom era.
Rubin welcomed the Topps team to Fanatics in another tweet Tuesday morning.
Fanatics, which is valued at $10.4 billion after a $350 million investment in September, will control the licenses to produce trading cards for all three major sports by 2026, with the respective leagues and players associations owning an equity stake in the new company. Now it can expand its reach even farther with the purchase of Topps, which also produces cards for Formula One, WWE and all the top international soccer leagues.
Though not surprising, the news shook up the industry on Monday, fueling speculation about Fanatics' next move and what new products might be on the horizon.
Also See: Collectors react to Fanatics deal