Since 1951, Topps has retained a partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) to produce baseball cards featuring team names and logos, and player names and likenesses. The partnership became exclusive in 2010 when Topps became the only company with this permission. Topps has been the partner’s biggest source of licensing revenue but the partnership will end in 2025.
Fanatics Founder and CEO, Michael Rubin, who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, is expanding Fanatics’ assets into new markets.1
Starting in 2026, MLB and MLBPA will work with Fanatics on licensed trading cards. Fanatics, valued at $18B, which has a rich history and is the largest of its kind in the sports merchandise industry has extended its assets to include NFT and sports betting, and is looking to go even bigger.
In addition to MLB and MLBPA, Fanatics is in talks with the NBA, NBAPA, and NFLPA and everyone is expected to make huge returns from the partnership. According to a memo sent to players by MLBPA Executive Director, Tony Clark, Major League players are expected to make much more money with the new deal as well.2
Panini, who currently has exclusive rights with the NBA, NBAPA, and NFLPA, will not be included in the new ventures, the name of which is still to be determined. The project will be led by StockX Founder and CEO, Josh Luber.3
Prior to the news, Topps was planning a merge with Murdick Capital Acquisition Corp II in a $1.3M deal that would’ve taken the company public. Since Topps won’t retain exclusives beyond 2025, both companies terminated the deal “by mutual agreement.” As a result of the move, Murdick’s stock dropped on Friday by 2.1%.4
MLB, MLBPA, Fanatics, Topps, and Panini have all delayed requests for comments.
- Inside Fanatics’ drive to conquer the $500 billion sports business. www.fastcompany.com ↩︎
- MLB and Fanatics strike trading card license agreement, ending a 70-year run with Topps, per report. www.cbssports.com ↩︎
- MLB, Players Ending Topps Card Deal for Fanatics Joint Venture. www.sportico.com ↩︎
- Topps, SPAC Mudrick Capital terminate merger deal that would have taken Topps public. www.marketwatch.com ↩︎