Fanatics is teaming up with rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill and entrepreneur Maverick Carter to purchase Mitchell & Ness, maker of throwback jerseys and retro sports apparel.
Investors also include rapper Lil Baby, and the TikTok-famous D’Amelio family. The group is paying $250 million, according to someone familiar with the terms. Fanatics will own 75% of the company, the other investors will combine to own 25%.
“I’m incredibly excited for Fanatics to partner with this incredible group of innovative owners to build upon the company’s already strong business,” Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin said in a statement. “Growing up as a kid in Philadelphia we looked at Mitchell & Ness as a badge of pride, and I truly believe this legendary brand has no limit.”
While Fanatics has drawn attention recently for its rapid expansion into new verticals like NFTs, trading cards and sports betting, the group has also been opportunistic in its core business. The world’s largest seller of licensed sports apparel recently acquired headwear licensee Top of the World, and hardgoods seller WinCraft.
Previously owned by Juggernaut Capital Partners, Mitchell & Ness had $350 million in revenue last year, with $70 million in profit, according to someone familiar with the business, who was granted anonymity because the financials are private. A representative for Fanatics declined to comment on the terms of the deal or the finances of the company; a representative for Mitchell & Ness didn’t return an email seeking comment.
Mitchell & Ness was established in 1904 as a sporting goods company specializing in tennis racquets, golf clubs and uniforms. In 1933, it began making on-field uniforms for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and later expanded to other sports.
The business pivoted in 1983 after a customer asked for repairs to his vintage St. Louis Browns jersey. Executives realized the company owned thousands of yards of discarded wool flannel and that there might be a market for nostalgia products. Now Mitchell & Ness is the premier seller of throwback jerseys and retro apparel across the MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAA and MLS (including a licensor relationship with Fanatics).
Adidas purchased the company in 2007, and it was sold in 2016 to Juggernaut Capital. CEO Kevin Wulff told the Philadelphia Business Journal last year that Mitchell & Ness revenue had tripled since the purchase and that the brand was looking to aggressively expand its brick-and-mortar locations in both the U.S. and overseas.
Under Fanatics, Mitchell & Ness will operate as a separate, distinct brand within the Fanatics commerce division. Wulff will stay on as CEO, reporting directly to Fanatics Brands president Joe Bozich. All 132 Mitchel & Ness employees will also remain with the company.
The acquisition will merge the existing Mitchell & Ness licenses and infrastructure with the Fanatics empire and the expertise of the new investors. Street fashion and nostalgia products are some of the fastest-growing areas for Fanatics, and the acquisition should lead to more product being released under the Mitchell & Ness banner.
This ownership groups build off a series of preexisting business relationships. Meek Mill and Rubin have been friendly for years, and are co-chairs in the Reform Alliance, which advocates for changes to the criminal justice system. Lil Baby has done work with the group and recently joined Rubin, Meek Mill and the D’Amelio sisters at “Reform Night” with the Philadelphia 76ers, in which Rubin is a part owner. Jay-Z is a Fanatics investor and has partnered on Fanatics’ nascent sports betting endeavors; both Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, two of TikTok’s bigger stars, attended the Fanatics Super Bowl party in Los Angeles last week.
Maryland-based private equity firm Ames Watson is also investing as part of the deal. Baird served as financial advisor to Mitchell & Ness on the deal.