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Fanatics Launching Events Division With Investment From IMG

Fanatics is launching a new events vertical, in partnership with IMG, to capitalize on the company’s growing suite of business ventures, including merchandise, memorabilia, fashion, music, trading cards and sports betting.

Starting next year, Fanatics Events will create fan festivals that feature athletes and brands from across the industry, including those in the Fanatics orbit. The vision is have ticketed events that resemble Comic Con or the NFL Experience held annually at the Super Bowl. Fanatics has hired Lance Fensterman, former president of pop culture event business ReedPop, to be CEO of the new venture.

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The business will be majority owned by Fanatics, with Endeavor’s IMG taking a “significant” minority stake, according a statement. Specifics around the equity shares, other backers and the valuation were not released. Fanatics Events will build out its portfolio through “acquisitions, joint ventures and new event launches,” the company said.

The early events will likely focus primarily on trading cards and collectibles, two areas where Michael Rubin's company has already spent hundreds of millions on both acquisitions and new partnerships. Card shows are already a prominent part of the collectibles industry, and Fanatics Events plans to rethink them with more modern, fan-centric features. This will dovetail with the company’s new video commerce division, Fanatics Live, which will also emphasize appearances by athletes and collectibles-specific content such as trading card “breaking.”

The events plan includes limited edition apparel drops, musical performances and celebrity talks. In places where legal, some events will incorporate the company’s nascent sports betting efforts.

The new events will provide yet another avenue for Fanatics to further promote the business of its athlete, team, league and union partners, many of which are also Fanatics investors (or in the case of athletes, investors in Fanatics ventures such as Mitchell & Ness). Fanatics has mushroomed from a $6 billion business to a $31 billion business in just the last few years, largely on the back of its database of sports fans and its network of partners. With each new vertical the company launches, it can instantly market that product to more than 90 million fans globally, and utilize relationships across nearly every major sport.

That’s sped up the rate of new business at the company. In the past few years Fanatics has expanded into trading cards, betting, live shopping, NFTs and music apparel, and also increased the manufacturing it does on behalf of Nike (NYSE: NKE).

IMG, a part of global entertainment giant Endeavor (NYSE: EDR), will bring its expertise in global events and its own network of clients and partners to fill out the Fanatics Events business.

Fensterman, whose portfolio at ReedPop included New York Comic Con and PAX, will report directly to Fanatics chief strategy officer Tucker Kain. The company plans to announce additional hires for the events vertical later this year.

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