Fanatics has partnered up with several celebrities, including the rapper Jay-Z and the D’Amelio family of TikTok fame, to purchase Mitchell & Ness, best known for its throwback jerseys.
According to reports, the deal valued Mitchell & Ness at about $250 million. Mitchell & Ness reportedly made about $70 million in profit off about $350 million in revenue last year.
Fanatics, the biggest maker of NBA, NFL and MLB jerseys, will own 75 percent of Mitchell & Ness, while the remaining 25 percent will be shared by Maverick Carter, LeBron James’s business partner, and the rapper Meek Mill. Baird served as exclusive financial advisor to Mitchell & Ness.
Kevin Wulff, the chief executive of Mitchell & Ness, will stay on in the same role as part of the deal, as will all of Mitchell & Ness’ 132 employees.
The brand will remain in its Philadelphia headquarters and operate as a separate, distinct brand within the Fanatics Commerce division. Wulff will report directly to Joe Bozich, president of Fanatics Brands, the manufacturing division within Fanatics Commerce.
Founded in 1904 and headquartered in Philadelphia, Mitchell & Ness started 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. It is now best known for its throwback jerseys, such as the 1988 Larry Bird All-Star basketball jersey, fetching prices from $100 to $400.
Mitchell & Ness’ products range from authentic nostalgic jerseys to licensed lifestyle products, street fashion apparel and headwear, and it has deals with sports properties including NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and various NCAA schools.
Fanatics has made its name by taking a quick-turnaround approach to sports merchandise, setting itself up to quickly produce the hottest items as it senses shifts in fan demand. It owns the rights to fan gear for major U.S. sports teams.
The Mitchell & Ness acquisition follows Fanatics’ past recent acquisitions of Majestic (jerseys), Top of the World (hats) and WinCraft (flags, banners and accessories) and adds streetwear to the mix.
Fanatics said in a statement that men’s and women’s street fashion, nostalgic authentics and other culturally relevant product categories are some of the fastest-growing areas within the Fanatics Commerce business.
Michael Rubin, CEO, Fanatics, said in a statement, “Mitchell & Ness is an iconic brand and a pioneer within our industry. I’m incredibly excited for Fanatics to partner with this incredible group of innovative owners to build upon the company’s already strong business that has kept the brand culturally relevant for more than 100 years. 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.”
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, the chief executive of Fanatics, and worked alongside him and Jay-Z on a prison reform initiative.
Fanatics plans to grow the business by enabling Mitchell & Ness to leverage its customer database and strong relationships with sports properties. Plans also call raising brand awareness for Mitchell & Ness brand globally, making the brand “even more culturally relevant than it already is,” expanding Mitchell & Ness’ product portfolio, and adding new league, team, college, and entertainment rights. The new owners also plan to expand the distribution of Mitchell & Ness products to new retailers worldwide.
Last year, Kevin Wulff told the Philadelphia Business Journal 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.
Mitchell & Ness was acquired by Adidas in 2007 and then purchased for $50 million by private equity firm Juggernaut Capital Partners and Wulff in 2016.
Photo courtesy Fanatics