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SoftBank-backed sports retailer Fanatics valued at US$18 billion in capital raise

(Corrects amount raised to US$325 million)

By Krystal Hu

NEW YORK :Fanatics, the world’s biggest licensed sports merchandise retailer, has raised US$325 million from new and existing investors in a funding round that valued the company at US$18 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Current backers SoftBank and Silver Lake, as well as new investors such as Jay Z, participated in the round, the source said, requesting anonymity.

Fanatics is attempting to leverage its fan base to build a sports commerce powerhouse that operates gaming, sports betting and media business units on top of its retail operations.

The latest round is Fanatics' third capital raise within a year, during which the company has almost tripled its valuation from US$6.2 billion in August 2020.

The Florida-based company recorded strong online sales growth during the pandemic and expects over US$3 billion in revenue in 2021.

Fanatics has made a series of senior hires under its current expansion plan since June. It brought in Glenn Schiffman, the former chief financial officer at media conglomerate IAC, and Tucker Kain, former President of the LA Dodgers, as well as Matt King, former chief executive at sports betting firm FanDuel.

Billionaire founder Michael Rubin, who holds the executive chairman role, will take over as chief executive officer (CEO) to oversee the expansion of the firm, while current CEO Doug Mack will continue to lead the merchandise business.

Fanatics has signed the rights to sell online merchandise for more than 300 leagues and teams, including the United States' NFL, NBA and MLB. In February, it announced an expansion into China by forming a joint venture with private equity firm Hillhouse Capital.

(Reporting by Krystal Hu; editing by Barbara Lewis)

Source: Reuters


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