NFL Invests $320 Million in Fanatics as Part of $1.5 Billion Round

The National Football League has increased its investment in Fanatics, joining other leagues, players’ unions and team owners in the company’s recently reported $1.5 billion round.

The NFL led the financing with a $320 million investment, Fanatics confirmed Wednesday. The NFLPA, MLB, MLBPA and NHL also increased their equity in the round, which valued Michael Rubin’s company at $27 billion.

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New investors include the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund that owns European soccer giant Paris Saint-Germain, and Blue Pool Capital, an investment firm backed by Alibaba co-founder and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai. Leagues, players associations and franchise owners now hold about 10% of Fanatics.

The world’s largest seller of licensed sports merchandise, Fanatics is quickly expanding into a multi-platform company with a handful of new verticals—including NFTs, trading cards and sports betting. That’s come alongside a massive jump in valuation. The company raised money at a $6.2 billion valuation in August 2020, a number that has since quadrupled. It is currently 12th on the CB Insights list of the world’s most valuable private companies.

Part of Rubin’s approach has been to cut leagues and unions in as equity partners, which helps secure business and allows the sports world’s biggest rights holders to share in the company’s growth. The NHL received its equity in 2015 as part of a wider deal with Fanatics. The NFL, NFLPA and MLB all joined the cap table in 2017. (MLS is also an investor; the NBA is not).

Rubin has replicated this playbook with Candy Digital, the NFT platform majority owned by Fanatics, and the company’s new trading card business. Leagues and unions with separate positions in those verticals are technically on the cap table in two ways—their own equity, and through the Fanatics-owned chunks.

Rubin has long planned to take Fanatics public. A company representative said there is no timeline for that process to begin, and that the focus is currently on expanding the business.

It’s unclear if the NFL’s investment was through 32 Equity, the league’s venture arm.

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