Mitchell & Ness Sold To Michael Rubin’s Fanatics, Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Lil Baby And Other Investors
PHILADELPHIA, PA — Philly based sports apparel firm Mitchell & Ness is now under new ownership.
Michael Rubin‘s Fanatics, the country’s largest licensed sports merchandise retailer, has teamed with billionaire rapper turned entrepreneur Jay-Z, rappers Meek Mill and Lil Baby, Maverick Carter, and, the D’Amelio family — to buy the business, officially called Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co., from Juggernaut Capital Partners. At the time of this post, terms were not disclosed.
Mitchell & Ness was founded in 1904 by Frank Mitchell and Charles Ness who opened a business in Philadelphia stringing tennis racquets, creating custom golf clubs and making uniforms for the local baseball and football teams. Over the years, the firm expanded into making uniforms for professional teams and in 1985, it started to create historically accurate vintage baseball jerseys and apparel.
Today, it offers vintage product for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and a number of NCAA universities. It also produces licensed lifestyle product, street fashion apparel and headwear.
Mitchell & Ness was purchased by Adidas in 2007, as the German company was seeking an entry into the retro apparel market, and in 2016 it was sold to Juggernaut, a private equity firm for an undisclosed sum.
Under the terms of the deal, Fanatics will own 75 percent of the business while the other investors will hold a 25 percent stake. Mitchell & Ness will continue to operate as a separate brand within Fanatics’ Commerce division.
Kevin Wulff, the current chief executive officer of Mitchell & Ness, will continue in that role, reporting to Joe Bozich, president of Fanatics Brands, the manufacturing arm within Fanatics Commerce.
The current management team will also be retained along with its 132 employees in Philadelphia, Irvine, Calif., and in select international markets who will transition to Fanatics but remain in their current locations.
The acquisition, according to Fanatics, allows the company to continue growing the licensed sports business by combining Mitchell & Ness’s brand and business model with Fanatics’ platform and global reach. That will include bringing awareness of the Mitchell & Ness brand to an international audience, making the brand more culturally relevant, expanding its product offering and bringing in new league, team, college and entertainment rights, according to Fanatics. Expanded distribution to new retailers around the world is also part of the plan.
From Fanatics’ standpoint, the acquisition allows the company to expand its men’s and women’s street fashion, authentic nostalgic offerings and other culturally relevant products, which are currently some of the fastest growing categories within Fanatics Commerce, according to the company.
“Mitchell & Ness is an iconic brand and a pioneer within our industry,” said Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics. “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 also weighed in, saying: “Fashion is cyclical, but classics are forever. Mitchell & Ness is a true classic. I was an early adopter of this brand, as well as a part of a departure from athletic wear. I’m 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.”
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