Fanatics, the digital sports platform and e-commerce company, has acquired Italian sports merchandise company EPI.
The deal, struck with EPI’s now-former owner the Quadrivio Group private equity firm, and announced today (April 5), will see EPI rebranded Fanatics Italy and become part of the Fanatics Commerce division.
It is aimed at helping Fanatics to continue expanding its presence in Europe.
EPI, which was founded in 1996 as a mail-order sales service for sports merchandise, is an official licensee and/or retail partner of several sports properties.
It provides e-commerce, in-venue, physical retail store operations, and third-party logistics services to the likes of top-tier Italian soccer clubs AC Milan, Atalanta, Bologna, Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Lazio, as well as the Italian Football Federation governing body.
It also works with Italian basketball club Olimpia Milano and North America’s premier NBA league.
These will add to Fanatics' existing partnership portfolio, which includes European soccer giants Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Atletico Madrid, as well as other major international properties like the International Olympic Committee, European soccer governing body UEFA, motor racing’s Formula 1, and American football’s NFL.
Fanatics says EPI will benefit from its global presence and its capabilities in e-commerce, data-driven insights from a global sports database, venue and event operations, wholesale distribution, product design, and merchandise creation.
All of EPI’s approximately 150 employees will remain at the company and will continue reporting to Lorenzo Forte, whose role changes from chief executive of EPI to chief executive of Fanatics Italy. Forte in turn will report to Fanatics Commerce co-presidents for direct-to-consumer Jack Boyle and Chris Orton.
As a part of the deal, Fanatics also acquires omnichannel soccer retailer The Pitch Football Store.
Doug Mack, chief executive of Fanatics Commerce and Fanatics vice chairman, said: “I am thrilled to welcome Lorenzo and the EPI team to Fanatics – we share an entrepreneurial mindset, a passion for delighting sports fans, and a love of innovating for sports teams and leagues, which makes for an exciting future together.
“By combining EPI’s local expertise and relationships in Italy with Fanatic’s leading-edge capabilities and global reach, we are excited to accelerate business for EPI’s current partners while further advancing our unrivaled offering for new global partners ahead.”
Forte added: “We’re excited to join Fanatics, a global company with the experience of serving millions of sports fans from some of the biggest sports clubs and organizations in the world. Fanatics is one of the fastest growing and most exciting companies in sport and we are ready to tap into its increasingly global presence and bring a more extensive digital sports experience to global fans, both here in Italy and across the world.”
The acquisition continues the growth of Fanatics, which was valued at $31 billion in December after raising a further $700 million as part of a new funding round led by private equity firm Clearlake Capital. At that point, it was expected to generate $8 billion in revenue in 2023.
In addition to the Fanatics Commerce merchandise division, the company also has the Fanatics Collectibles division focused on physical and digital trading cards and collectibles and the Fanatics Betting and Gaming division focused on sports betting and igaming.
It acquired several companies last year, including trading card firm Topps for $500 million, and in January this year was reported to be in talks to acquire gambling platform BetParx.
Fanatics expanded its operations into China in early 2021 via a joint venture with Asian private equity fund Hillhouse Capital.
Quadrivio had acquired EPI in November 2020 with, it says, “the aim of enhancing its position in its target market and establishing a market-leading e-commerce and sports retail hub.”
It reports that sales increased by around 125% in a little over two years, turnover from €20 million ($21.9 million) to €45 million between 2020 and 2022, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization from €2 million to €4.5 million over that period.
Alessandro Binello, group chief executive of Quadrivio Group, commented: “The exit of EPI and its sale to an international industrial group confirms the strategic value of our investment and the great potential for the development and internationalization of Italian SMEs if adequately supported.
“This transaction demonstrates how private equity funds can produce strong returns for our investors while adding value for the portfolio firm, even in a limited time frame.”