US sports giant Fanatics acquires top Italian football club merchandiser
- Fanatics, the sports platform, has acquired Italian sports merchandise company Epi and will rebrand it Fanatics Italy.
- The new European entity will operate ecommerce, in-venue, physical retail store and third-party logistics for several of the top football clubs in Italy including AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, the Italian national team, and the NBA in the country.
- The company run by billionaire Michael Rubin recently signed its first Japanese baseball deal as it expands its global presence, already dominant in retail among U.S. pro sports leagues.
Fanatics has captured much of the sports merchandise market in the U.S., with the sports platform holding deals with leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and MLS to sell all sorts of fan apparel, collectibles and jerseys.
The company, a three-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company, is increasingly setting its sights abroad, with its latest acquisition not only helping it further grow in Europe but also establishing another foothold in the global game of football.
Fanatics has acquired Italian sports merchandise company Epi for an undisclosed amount and will rebrand the Milan-based company as Fanatics Italy. The company operates the ecommerce, in-venue, physical retail store and third-party logistics for several of the top football clubs in Italy including AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, as well as the Italian Football Federation, which oversees the Italian national team. The deal also includes NBA merchandise in the country.
The deal builds upon Fanatics' existing presence in Europe and across the globe, which totals more than 60 offices, and manufacturing and distribution facilities. The company already has partnerships with top football clubs Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, as well as with the International Olympic Committee to oversee the creation of the first-ever global ecommerce site selling Olympics merchandise starting with the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
"Sports teams and league want a global strategy, and we're architecting Fanatics to be able to sort out their ecommerce capabilities and physical merchandising capabilities in Europe, China, and other parts of the world," said Doug Mack, Fanatics Commerce CEO. "On the other side of that, three Italian clubs are in the Champions League quarterfinals, and as they make progression and get more fans, we can help take them beyond the bounds of their traditional fan base."
Roughly a "low double-digit" percentage of Fanatics' revenue comes from outside North America, Mack said, declining to comment further as Fanatics is a private company. However, he said that growth in Europe and Asia is among the fastest-growing areas of its business in recent years. Revenue for Fanatics will be approximately $8 billion in 2023, according to previous company estimates seen by CNBC.
The company also recently completed a deal for manufacturing and distribution of merchandise for the Yomiuri Giants, Japan's most successful and popular baseball team, the first non-U.S. sports club under an existing Fanatics-Nike partnership model.
There is also a growing interest from teams and league abroad to tap into the North American market, as the popularity of football — soccer in the U.S. — and Formula One racing continues to grow.
"There are a lot of people around the world wearing New York Yankees hats, so you're really exporting culture and passion," Mack said.
Fanatics raised $700 million in fresh capital in December, valuing the company at $31 billion. The company planned to use the new money to focus on potential merger and acquisition opportunities, a person familiar with the company's thinking told CNBC in December.
In 2022, it made several acquisitions, including the $500 million purchase of trading card company Topps, as well as throwback jersey and streetwear brand Mitchell & Ness in February, a deal that valued the company at $250 million.
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