We haven’t seen a sneak attack like this since George Washington crossed the Delaware River and ambushed the Hessians back in 1776.
After taking out Topps last week, and then inking a trading card deal with the NBA, Michael Rubin and Fanatics now have NFL rights:
NFL Players Association is leaving Panini and signing a 20-year trading cards deal with Fanatics starting in 2026, per sources. And so the NFLPA is now joining MLB/MLBPA and NBA/NBPA in a new Fanatics trading cards company. All parties will have equity stakes in the new venture.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2021
This has been a pretty ruthless and effective takeover. In less than a week, Rubin acquired trading card rights for three of the “four major North American sports,” with Upper Deck currently representing the NHL.
The most interesting thing is that each group is receiving equity as part of the deal. It’s conceivable to think that this is just a link to some bigger goal, i.e. non-fungible tokens or something along those digital lines. Trading cards resonate with an older demographic, but the kids and tech types are into NFTs (like Top Shot), and that’s a still-relatively-burgeoning space.
Also, just to squash something –
The Sixers didn’t get rid of a bunch of staff in order to save a buck or let Michael Rubin expand Fanatics. Those were Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers decisions, as they mold and shape basketball operations into their preferred image. Ownership typically has very little to do with hirings and firings of scouts and equipment folks and other people who would report to the GM or a head coach (so while the optics of firing the veteran equipment guy might look bad, they didn’t do it to save Josh Harris some cash).
Credit to Rubin though; guy is a savage on the business front. He is aggressively expanding his portfolio and we should all be intrigued to see where Fanatics goes from here.