Fanatics is inching closer to an initial public offering.
On Wednesday, the leading seller of licensed sports merchandise raised another $320 million from its existing lenders that more than doubles the company’s valuation to $12.8 billion. Last August, Fanatics raised $350 million, which valued the company at $6.2 billion.
The latest round was led by Silver Lake, a private equity firm, together with Fidelity, Neuberger Berman, Franklin Templeton, Thrive Capital, Blackstone and Major League Baseball, according to sources close to the deal. The investors were attracted to Fanatics’ proven ability to reach 80 million fans around the world with its vertical commerce and data platform.
Fanatics is expected to use the newly acquired funds to grow its online presence, pursue other acquisitions, expand into more countries and explore other business opportunities. Since its last funding round in August, Fanatics acquired Top of the World, the number-one college headwear brand; WinCraft, the top licensed sports hardgoods company; partnered with Lids and Barnes & Noble Education to operate 770 collegiate websites and bookstores, and launched Fanatics China, a joint venture with Hillhouse Capital, a leading private equity firm in Asia, to sell licensed sports product in that market. The China operation is expected to be worth more than $1 billion.
Fanatics’ aggressive growth initiatives have led many in the investment community to speculate that an IPO is not far in the future for the company. Asked for comment, a company spokesperson said: “While an IPO is clearly an available option to us, there is no update on any timeline. Our focus remains on building a great global company and strengthening our vertical commerce business model.”
Fanatics was founded and is now run by billionaire Michael Rubin, who serves as executive chairman. He is also a part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, according to the Fanatics website.