Fanatics-Kitbag merger forms global sports gear champ

Fanatics, the California-based, $1 billion (yearly sales) pro and college team sports apparel online sales giant owned by Michael Rubin's West Conshohocken-based Kynetic, has agreed to pay $17 million in cash to buy Kitbag, a $100 million, U.K.-based "international sports eCommerce company," from owner Kindel Plc.  

The deal joins Kitbag's licensed soccer gear sales and its European contracts for the NFL, NBA and NHL, to Fanatics' deals for American sales by teams in those leagues, plus others in Major League baseball, NCAA and other U.S. franchises, and media (Fanatics picks up customers through deals with sports media, from Comcast to Philly.com, though it's not always apparent to users.)

Kitbag partners include Manchester United, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester Tigers, and Borussia Dortmund soccer football clubs,  as well as events such as the French Open and Wimbledon tennis championships, Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup (golf), and Formula 1 auto racing.

Fanatics is well-funded for acquisitions: In addition to Rubin, who kept Fanatics when he sold GSI Commerce to eBay in 2011 for $2.4 billion, the company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from a series of investors, including China's Alibaba, as well as U.S. venture capitalists Silver Lake, Andreessen Horowitz and Insight Venture Partners. 

In a statement, Fanatics boss Doug Mack praised Kitbag's "multichannel capabilities," adding that “Fanatics and Kitbag are a nearly perfect complement, creating a complete platform for sports fans, leagues, teams and manufacturers globally, which will grow the licensed sports industry.” 

Fanatics and Kitbag will be able to share TV and online marketing deals, sales and order-fulfillment systems, among other services. "The globalization of all the major sports we serve together creates significant opportunities," added Kitbag boss Andy Anson.

Fanatics operates the fanatics.com and www.fansedge.com Web sites and www.fanaticsauthentic.com for sports memorabilia. The company has lately opened a physical store in New York.  See also www.kitbag.com