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Panini Buys Donruss

Friday, 13 Mar 2009 | 12:55 PM ET
Panini Group
Panini Group

A couple months ago, we were surprised to see that the NBA awarded the exclusive rights to its trading card business to Italian company Panini.

Today, Panini announced it has acquired Donruss Playoff, the second oldest card company in the United States.

Panini America will take over Donruss’ NFL license — sources say they won’t have to pay an additional transfer fee — and will start making football cards in May before it produces NBA cards in October. Donruss lost its Major League Baseball license in 2006.

“Panini's vision of the future is simply to grow the North American trading card market considerably,” the company said in a news release. “There is considerable talent within the 50 plus strong Donruss team and a fine legacy from which we can grow the product category and attract new collectors. Our priority now is to integrate the team, supplement it where necessary with the extra help required to manage the enlarged business and complete the work already started on the development of our enlarged publishing program.”

While Panini is the world’s largest publisher of collectibles and has worldwide distribution of its products, the move will quiet the talk of concern over Panini’s relative lack of experience in the American market.

"Panini's acquisition of Donruss provides them with an immediate infrastructure and creates business efficiencies for their North American operations,” said Sal LaRocca, the league’s executive vice president of global merchandising. “We look forward to working closely with Panini on the 2009-10 NBA trading card products."

The question that still remains is, how is Panini going to turn a profit in this environment without having exclusive autograph and memorabilia deals with the biggest players that currently have contracts with Upper Deck? Panini is a $1 billion company so it should be interesting to see how much they are willing to spend to make this happen. If they determine that this is a priority, the big players whose autograph and memorabilia contracts are up might see a bump even in this economy due to healthy competition.

Panini America will now be based at the Donruss headquarters in Arlington, Texas.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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