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Report: Fanatics Strikes Again, Set To Become Exclusive Licensee For NBA Trading Cards

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 23, 2021


Days after it struck a deal to become the official trading card company for Major League Baseball, sports-merchandise behemoth Fanatics has reportedly reached an agreement with the National Basketball Association and its players’ union for exclusive licenses to produce basketball trading cards, further shaking up the sports card industry.

Key Facts

A Fanatics-founded company, which has not yet been named, will replace current rights holder Panini in 2026, when Panini’s license expires, according to The Athletic, which broke the news. 

An industry source was able to confirm to Forbes that the report is accurate.

Panini has held the exclusive license for NBA trading cards since 2009. 

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association will have equity in the new venture as part of the deal.

Forbes has reached out to Panini America for comment but did not immediately hear back, while ​​Fanatics declined to comment. 

Michael Rubin, who serves as chief executive of Fanatics and is co-owner of both the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, is worth an estimated $8.0 billion, according to Forbes

Key Background:

The stunning news that Fanatics, the world’s biggest licensed sports merchandise retailer, had agreed to a deal with Major League Baseball to replace Topps when the latter company’s licenses expire at the end of 2025, broke last Thursday. The 70-year relationship between Topps and MLB dates back to 1951 when the confectionery company produced its first set of baseball cards. According to ESPN, which obtained a memo from the MLBPA, the new Fanatics’ baseball deal is more than 10 times larger than any previous MLB trading card pact. Like the NBA agreement, the MLB players union will have equity in the new venture. The union memo reportedly asserts that the deal is expected to generate roughly $2 billion over the next 25 years. The Fanatics deal will not only increase the league and union’s revenue upfront via increased price paid for the licenses, but they also cash out on the backend by gaining equity in the newly formed company. The underlying assumption is that Fanatics will be able to maintain its ascendant success and financial footing in the years ahead, but the league and union decision-makers seem quite confident that will be the case. 


In April, Topps announced it was planning to merge with Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corp II and go public. On Friday, Topps revealed the merger agreement had been terminated, saying it will remain a private company. 

What To Watch For:

The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that Fanatics is expected to become the official licensee for National Football League trading cards as well. 

Big Number:

$18 billion. After Fanatics secured $325 million from new and existing investors in a funding round earlier this month, the company was valued at $18 billion.

Further Reading:

Fanatics Billionaire Michael Rubin’s Fortune Soars On Fan Demand For Jerseys (Forbes) 

Billionaire Michael Rubin Scores $6.2 Billion Valuation For Fanatics After Oversubscribed Funding Round (Forbes)


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