comscore Topps loses licensing deal for baseball cards, tears up plan to go public | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Topps loses licensing deal for baseball cards, tears up plan to go public

Topps has been synonymous with trading cards, particularly baseball cards, for 70 years.

That era will soon be over. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are ending their licensing agreement with Topps in favor of a deal with Fanatics, the up-and-coming sports collectible brand. The loss of baseball rights also led to the abrupt cancellation Friday of a plan for Topps to go public, casting its future into question.

The company, which also owns Bazooka gum, announced a deal in April to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, run by Mudrick Capital. The $1.3 billion merger was set to go to a shareholder vote next week.

Topps and Mudrick announced Friday morning that the deal is off, the day after they were notified that the baseball contracts would not be renewed when they expire in 2022 for players’ images, which the players’ union controls, and 2025 for team logos, which MLB controls.

Andy Redman, executive chairman of Topps, said in a statement that the company was left in the dark by its negotiating partners at the league and the players union.

“Not only were we unaware that Major League Baseball was negotiating with anybody other than Topps regarding our rights beyond 2025,” he said, but Topps on Thursday was told by Noah Garden, the league’s chief revenue officer, “that a deal was completed, finalized and exclusive with Fanatics.”

“Similarly, as recently as the All-Star Game on July 13 in two one-hour conversations, Evan Kaplan from MLB Players Inc. never indicated to Topps that the union was negotiating with any other parties about our rights,” he added. Kaplan is managing director of the players’ union.

A representative for the league did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the union did not have a comment.

Topps has been owned by Tornante, the investment firm of former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, and private equity firm Madison Dearborn since 2007, when the two acquired it for $385 million.

Fanatics, most recently valued at $18 billion, has been drawing on its ties to major sports league teams to expand beyond hats and other branded merchandise. In June, it started a digital collectibles firm, Candy Digital, which has partnered with MLB to introduce a series of nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.

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