Fanatics, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based sports merchandising giant, revealed today that the NFL was the “single biggest investor” in the latest round announced by the company, a $ 1.5 billion round at a whopping $ 27 billion valuation that reportedly closed last month. The deal marked a 50% increase from the $ 18 billion valuation assigned to Fanatics during its previous raise last August.
According to the company, the NFL contributed $ 320 million to the round – but it was not the only sports organization involved. Fanatics added that other major investors in the round included Major League Baseball (MLB) and its owners, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the National Hockey League, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai via his fund Blue Pool Capital and the Qatar Investment Authority.
With the latest financing, leagues, players’ associations and team owners now own approximately 10% of the business – which can be viewed as serious validation of the company and the direction in which it is headed. Institutional investors include BlackRock, Fidelity and MSD Partners, as well as some existing backers.
Fanatics projects it will reach a staggering $ 5 billion in revenue this year. That’s up from $ 2.2 billion in revenue in 2017 when it closed on $ 1 billion in funding led by SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund. At that time, it was valued at $ 4.5 billion.
Last August, the company raised $ 325 million and announced it would be expanding outside of its legacy business of helping leagues and teams sell their licensed apparel and fan gear directly to customers.
The fresh interest and investment and the alignment with the leagues and players associations is all part of Fanatics’ goal of becoming a “global digital sports platform,” the company said.
While its commerce business remains its biggest source of revenue for now, Fanatics has expanded into Collectibles – acquiring Tops a few months ago. It also has an NFT arm in Candy Digital, of which it’s the majority owner, as well as a fledgling betting and gaming division.
“We’ve always thought of ourselves as a tech company,” a spokesperson said.
Fanatics has raised a total of $ 4.2 billion in funding, according to Crunchbase.
Reporter’s note: The story’s headline was updated post-publication to name the lead investor.