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SNEAKERS & FASHION

Fanatics: A Definitive Timeline

With an $18 billion valuation and big moves into trading cards and sports betting, let’s take stock of the apparel and memorabilia giant’s story so far.

What began as a brick-and-mortar football merchandise establishment right outside Jacksonville, Florida somehow grew into a global behemoth worth billions upon billions.

In barely 25 years, Fanatics has become not only one of the biggest names in sports apparel, but an emerging juggernaut in far-flung spaces like trading cards and sports betting. And at this rate, they may as well be just getting started.

The company has proven that it’s content to move faster than fast. But on the heels of this week’s announcement of the company’s all-new $350 million fundraise and $18 billion valuation, it’s time to take stock of just how far this brand has come.

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1995: Jacksonville-based Fanatics, Inc. debuts as Football Fanatics, a sports apparel and merch shop at the nearby Orange Park Mall.

Feb. 9, 2011: Michael G. Rubin’s GSI Commerce Inc. purchases Fanatics, Inc. The transaction is valued at $277 million, including $171 million of cash and $106 million of GSI common stock, which consists of approximately 4.8 million shares based on the volume-weighted average price on Feb. 8, 2011 of $22.20.

“Fanatics is a terrific company and a great fit with GSI,” said Michael Rubin, Chairman and CEO of GSI Commerce in a contemporaneous statement. Rubin continued, “The combination of Fanatics with our licensed sports merchandise business, which had net revenues of approximately $300 million in 2010, will enable us to better serve our partners and fans, and together the combined company will be a leader in the estimated $15 billion licensed sports merchandise market.

June 6, 2012: A little over a year after GSI Commerce’s purchase, Fanatics raises $150 million from Andreessen Horowitz and Insight Venture Partners that brings the value of the brand to $1.5 billion. 

June 6, 2013: Fanatics raises $170 million in funding, bringing the brand’s worth to $3.1 billion. Investors included Temasek Holdings and Alibaba Group.

June 6, 2015: The NBA inks multiyear partnership with Fanatics to operate the league’s flagship store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue in time for the holiday season.

“Fanatics is very excited to expand our already incredible partnership with the NBA,” said Fanatics Vice President of In-Venue Commerce Brendan McQuillan in a statement.  “By bringing our technology leadership and scale to the league’s new flagship location, NBA fans will now be able to have a comprehensive shopping experience whether at home, on the go, or when visiting the amazing NBA Store in midtown Manhattan.”

Aug. 26, 2015: Fanatics sells minority stake to private equity firm Silver Lake for $300 million. The investment, which was broken by Fortune, was all for primary shares which meant previous existing investors kept their stock in the brand. 

Sept. 6 2017: SoftBank leads a $1 billion investment round assisted by the NFL and NBA. The goal is to use SoftBank’s expertise in the Asia-Pacific market to aid Fanatics’ global expansion as the brand aimed to grow specifically in the soccer space.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of the global opportunity,” Fanatics CEO Doug Mack said in a statement. “Soccer is the world’s No. 1 sport, and then there’s cricket. You’ll see us extend our rights to international leagues.” Brand now valued at $4.5 billion.

Aug. 13, 2020: Fanatics raises $350 million from an E funding round which takes the brand valuation to $6.2 billion. The brand is now worth more than every NFL team but the Dallas Cowboys according to Sportico valuations. The round was led by Fidelity and Thrive Capital with Franklin Templeton Investments and Neuberger Berman Group also assisting, according to CNBC. 

Feb. 25, 2021: Fanatics links with Chinese private equity firm Hillhouse Capital Group to expand its outreach in China. The joint venture between the two companies is a 50-50 split and is based in Shanghai.

“China has been a market we followed for a while,” said Zohar Ravid, Fanatics’ head of international corporate development when speaking to Reuters. “And we’ve been meeting with multiple partners in China trying to figure out how we approach it in the best way.”

March 16, 2021: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Rod Woodson join Fanatics as exclusive memorabilia partners. The three NFL Hall of Famers joined other Fanatics athletes that include stars like Peyton Manning, Aaron Judge, Zion Williamson, and Marshawn Lynch.

“This is just the beginning,” said Woodson. “We just got into the Hall of Fame portion of the partnership, and, man, I’ve got a lifetime to build on that.”

March 24, 2021: Fanatics raises another $320 million from private equity investors such as Neuberger Berman, Thrive Capital, Fidelity Investments, Franklin Templeton, and the MLB. According to CNBC, Fanatics initially said the Series E round would be the last funding round but investors came to them with the proposal.

The brand earns a $12.8 billion valuation, making it worth more than both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees combined. 

Aug. 16, 2021: Jay-Z and Fanatics partner to apply for a sports betting license in New York in a story first broken by ESPN.

Aug. 19, 2021: Fanatics replaces Topps as the MLB’s official trading card partner. The deal is set to begin in 2023.

Aug. 23-25, 2021: The NBA, NBAPA, and NFLPA replace Panini with Fanatics as their official trading card partner. The deals are set to start in 2026. 

Sept. 17, 2021: The Dallas Cowboys and Fanatics agree to a 10-year deal for the sports merchandise company to operate the Cowboys’ online store. 

Sept. 29, 2021: Fanatics raises $350 million in a funding round from Silver Lake, Insight Partners and Endeavor, the owner of the UFC. While Fanatics is now valued at $18 billion, the company’s trading card arm currently known as Fanatics Trading Cards is now valued at $10.4 billion.