Topps is a sports and entertainment collectibles company. It also manufactures chewing gum and candies. The company is famous for producing American football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and other sports-themed trading cards. Topps is co-owned by the Tornante Company and private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners. The former Walt Disney Co. chief executive Michael Eisner is its chairman.
There has been a major upheaval in the baseball trading card business.
Topps has been a major baseball-card manufacturer since the early 1950s with no major competition. However, a major upset happened in August 2021. The unions representing players in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League struck exclusive agreements with a new company controlled by online sports-merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc.
Sports trading cards rely on such deals for the rights to use players’ images and teams’ logos and trademarks. This deal put an end to Topps’ market-leading position in the baseball-card market, which is one of the most lucrative in the sports trading cards.
Fanatics emerged as an aggressive force in the sports trading card business
Fanatics emerged as one of the most aggressive forces in sports trading cards. It became the go-to online retailer for sports gear into a business that makes trading cards more accessible to everyday fans. The company is aggressively pursuing partnerships with major sports leagues for merchandising sales.
In 2021, Fanatics privately raised $325 million, which valued the company at $18 billion. Fanatics founder and executive chairman Michael Rubin is also the co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
Topps called off its merger with MUDS.
After the major upheaval, Topps and MUDS mutually decided to terminate the merger deal. The deal was called off one week before shareholders were set to vote on the proposed merger. The investment case for Topps changed substantially with the non-renewal of major contracts and the decision to not go public.
Fanatics will acquire Topps.
On January 3, 2022, CNBC reported that Fanatics has acquired Topps trading cards. While it didn't have the terms of the agreement, industry sources put the deal at roughly $500 million. According to CNBC’s sources, the deal includes only Topps’ name and sports and entertainment division, not the company’s candy and gift cards line.
While the MLB’s agreement with Topps was slated to run until 2025, with Fanatics’ acquisition of Topps, it will obtain MLB’s trading card rights immediately. Fanatics will also obtain rights for Major League Soccer, UEFA, Bundesliga, and Formula 1. Those leagues also have active agreements with Topps.