In its latest deal to expand its sports merchandise empire, Fanatics, known for its sports apparel and more, has teamed up with a host of celebrities, including rapper Jay-Z and the D’Amelio family of TikTok fame, to buy brand merchandising company Mitchell & Ness.
The deal, which closed Wednesday, valued Mitchell & Ness around $250 million, said two people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms of the deal were confidential. Mitchell & Ness made about $70 million in profit off about $350 million in revenue last year, the people said.
Fanatics will own 75% of Mitchell & Ness as part of the transaction; the other 25% will be owned by the celebrity cohort, which also includes rapper Meek Mill and LeBron James’ business partner, Maverick Carter. Mitchell & Ness CEO Kevin Wulff will stay on as part of the deal, as will all 132 employees.
Fanatics has made its name by taking a fast-fashion approach to sports merchandise, setting itself up to quickly produce the hottest items by sensing shifts in fan demand. It owns the rights to fan gear for major U.S. sports teams, and the deal adds streetwear to a portfolio of apparel lines that include Majestic (jerseys), Top of the World (hats) and WinCraft (flags, banners and accessories).
More recently, Fanatics, which was last valued by investors at $18 billion, bought the trading cards business from Topps, and it has expanded into nonfungible tokens, the digital, tradable art more commonly known as NFTs, and gambling.
Mitchell & Ness, founded in Philadelphia in 1904, is known for its throwback jerseys, which sell for $100 to $400. It has licensing deals with the NBA, the NFL, MLB, MLS, and several NCAA universities.
The brand has changed hands several times, with Adidas acquiring it in 2007 and private equity firm Juggernaut Capital Partners and Wulff buying it in 2016. It joins other nostalgia brands, like Reebok, that have brought in new owners with plans to bring new life into them.
Jay-Z, who described himself as “an early adopter” of Mitchell & Ness, said in a statement that he was “proud to play a small role in bringing it back and, in some cases, introducing the authenticity and quality of the Mitchell & Ness brand to a new generation.”
Jay-Z is already involved in Fanatics through his partnership on a forthcoming sports betting division. Meek Mill is a longtime friend of Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics, and worked alongside him and Jay-Z on a prison reform initiative.