CNBC Disruptor 50

Fanatics acquires WinCraft, a company that makes sports-themed merchandise

Key Points
  • Fanatics has acquired licensed sports merchandise company WinCraft.
  • Fanatics will now have a more significant presence with non-apparel merchandise, as WinCraft specializes in hardgoods, such as sports-themed clocks and banners.
  • New executives will report to newcomer Molly Adams, who recently served as president of Famous Footwear.
Green Bay Packers fan cave
Source: Fanatics

Sports merchandise company Fanatics has completed another acquisition to strengthen its position in the licensed sports apparel sector as speculation increases the company will eventually go public.

The Michael Rubin-led company purchased licensed sports merchandise manufacturer WinCraft, the company told CNBC. WinCraft chairman Dick Pope is retiring and decided to sell the company that started in 1961, Fanatics said.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

With the purchase of the Minnesota-based WinCraft, Fanatics will have a more significant presence with non-apparel merchandise. WinCraft sells home, office and automotive sports-themed merchandise, such as clocks and banners.

Fanatics is concentrating on the acceleration of its vertical commerce business and strengthening its manufacturing and distribution operations.

In August, the company raised a $350 million Series E funding round and is using the funds to acquire firms to position itself as a market specialist in various sports merchandise areas. 

The Series E increased its valuation from $4.5 billion to $6.2 billion. Company officials told CNBC it's the last funding round.

With its e-commerce infrastructure secure, the Florida-based Fanatics is enhancing its parent umbrella with sports licensed merchandise firms to strengthen its v-commerce business. There's speculation the firm will eventually seek an IPO, though a Fanatics spokesperson told CNBC the move "is not on our radar right now."

"Our focus is on building a great company and strengthening our vertical commerce business," the Fanatics spokesperson said.

Fanatics is also gathering consenting rights from WinCraft's more than 700 colleges and professional league licensing deals, including all championship events and an agreement with the Olympics.

Fanatics will keep all existing WinCraft offices and manufacturing centers open.

In addition to WinCraft, which generates more than $100 million annually, Fanatics also acquired lead collegiate sports headwear company, Top of the World, or TOW, in September. That company was facing liquidation.

"The combined manufacturing capabilities of TOW and WinCraft working together with Fanatics' bricks-and-mortar retail partners provides a tremendous opportunity to grow the licensed retail space by providing consumers a one-stop-shop for apparel and non-apparel items both online and offline," a company spokesman told CNBC in an email.

Fanatics paid off the debt to the previous owner, Vetta Brands, and rehired roughly 200 laid-off employees. The firm told CNBC both Top of the World and WinCraft will keep staff. Existing executive teams will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations. 

Current WinCraft president John Killen will lead Fanatics' hardgoods division, and TOW president Scott Shuler continues to lead its headwear vertical.

Molly Adams, Fanatics
Source: Fanatics

As part of a restructure with its Fanatics Brands, both executives will now report to newcomer Molly Adams, who recently served as president of Famous Footwear. Her new role is executive vice president, chief integration and transformation officer of Fanatics.

Investors in Fanatics include SoftBank Group and e-commerce firm Alibaba Group, co-founded by National Basketball Association team owner Joe Tsai.

Rubin, the executive chairman of Fanatics, is also a part of the Philadelphia 76ers ownership group run by Apollo Global Management co-founder Josh Harris and partner David Blitzer.

Fanatics was one of CNBC's Disruptor 50 companies in 2019.

Fanatics's Michael Rubin on the company's $6.2 billion valuation and growth despite pandemic
Fanatics's Michael Rubin on the company's $6.2 billion valuation