Michael Rubin and Fanatics Stealthily Maneuvering Into the Trading Card Space
You into trading cards? Baseball? Basketball?
If so, then get ready for Fanatics to enter the space, because Michael Rubin’s company is blitzing the hell out of the market. It’s the business version of Bob Huggins running the full court press and forcing 25 turnovers out of Wheeling Jesuit in the season opener.
Last week, it was announced that Topps is no longer going to be Major League Baseball’s official trading card partner. After 70 years, MLB is going with Fanatics instead. Crazy.
And today, Shams dropped this bit of news:
Licensed sports giant Fanatics has reached a deal with the NBA and NBPA to replace Panini in 2026 for exclusive license to produce basketball cards – giving equity to players and league in the new trading cards venture.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 23, 2021
In less than a week, Rubin, the Sixers co-owner, secured exclusive trading card rights for Major League Baseball and the NBA. And not a peep from Fanatics about the news. Talk about stealth maneuvering. Silent, but deadly.
The insane thing is that Topps had been doing well as of late. According to Sports Collectors Daily, sales were up 78 percent from 2020 and the company was planning to go public via a merger that would value Topps at $1.2 billion.
The call came from Major League Baseball, Topps’ most important partner and one with whom it had been joined at the hip since the early 1950s.
In baseball terms, Topps was being given its unconditional release.
While Eisner and Topps had glided merrily along, MLB and its players had quietly been working on a deal with Fanatics for many months and now it was final. Fanatics would take over the MLB trading card license in 2026–and have a deal with baseball’s players three years before that. Topps says it was given no chance to make a counter offer, with MLB and the MLB Players Association apparently believing there was no way for the old guard to compete with Fanatics’ money machine.
“Not only were we unaware that Major League Baseball was negotiating with anybody other than Topps regarding our rights beyond 2025, but we were abruptly informed yesterday at 2:00 p.m. ET…that a deal was completed, finalized and exclusive with Fanatics,” stated Andy Redman, Topps’ executive.
That is some cut-throat business right there. Aggressive and uncompromising.