Topps has been synonymous with trading cards, especially baseball cards, for 70 years.
That era is soon over. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association terminate the license agreement with Topps in favor of an agreement with Fanatics, the upcoming brand for sports collections. The loss of baseball rights also led to the abrupt cancellation on Friday of a plan for Topps to go public, which put the future in doubt.
The company, which also owns Bazooka chewing gum, announced an agreement in April to merge with a specialist acquisition company, or SPAC, operated by Mudrick Capital. The $ 1.3 billion merger was to go to a shareholder vote next week.
Topps and Mudrick announced Friday morning that the deal was terminated, a day after they were notified that the baseball contracts will not be renewed when they expire in 2022 for player photos, which the players’ association controls, and 2025 for team logos, as Major League Baseball controllers .
Andy Redman, CEO of Topps, said in a statement that the company had been left in the dark by its negotiating partners in the league and the players’ association.
“Not only were we unaware that Major League Baseball was negotiating with anyone other than Topps for our rights after 2025,” he said, but Topps was told Thursday by Noah Garden, the league’s revenue manager, “that an agreement was complete, complete and exclusive with Fanatics. ”
“Similarly, as recently as the All-Star Game on July 13 in two one-hour talks, Evan Kaplan of MLB Players Inc. has never indicated to Topps that the union is negotiating with other parties about our rights,” Redman said. . Kaplan is the managing director of the players’ association.
A representative of the league did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the union did not comment.
Topps has been owned by Tornante, the investment firm of former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn since 2007, when the two bought it. for $ 385 million.
Fanatics, last valued at $ 18 billion, has pulled on its ties to major sports league teams to expand beyond hats, sweaters and other brands. In June, it started a company for digital collectibles, Candy Digital, which has teamed up with Major League Baseball to introduce a series of non-fungible tokens. Fanatics has also pooched a number of leaders from sports teams, gaming companies and technology companies as they consider expanding to tickets, betting and gambling.
The baseball deal reflects Fanatic’s growth ambitions, and turns into baseball cards when they have exploded in popularity, amid growing interest from home and digital investors buying NFTs.
Fanatics want to create a new trading card company and give both Major League Baseball and the players’ association seats on the board, said a person familiar with the plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because these plans were not yet public. The union and the league will have a stake in the company, a change to own a part of the company that makes money on members’ photos instead of just licensing these photos. Sports teams have in recent years strengthened its commercial arms to help players earn more on their similarities.
Fanatics, which is riding high on the new license agreements, may consider trying to buy one of the three major card companies: Panini, Upper Deck or Topps, said a person familiar with the company’s thinking. It will reflect the strategy of the clothing company Majestic, as it acquired after winning the rights to make major uniforms that Majestic previously had.
Kevin Draper and Ephrat Livni contributed with reporting.