Fanatics bets on Italian soccer with EPI deal
LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) – U.S. sports merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc will run the official online stores of Italy’s national soccer team and seven Serie A teams, through its acquisition of Italian sports e-commerce firm EPI, its first foray into the Italian market.
The deal, which has not previously been reported, will also see Fanatics take over the running of in-stadium stores for AC Milan, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, and Bologna.
Fanatics manufactures and sells licensed merchandise for the National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball in the U.S. and has been growing in Britain and Europe since buying British sports retailer Kitbag in 2016.
“Serie A has so many successful teams that I think are essential to have as part of a global partner roster,” said Doug Mack, CEO of Fanatics Commerce and vice-chairman of Fanatics.
EPI, previously owned by Italian private equity firm Quadrivio Group’s “Industry 4.0” fund, operates the official online stores of AC Milan, Atalanta, Bologna, Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Juventus, Lazio, and Italy’s national soccer federation FIGC.
The deal will make it easier for fans outside Italy to buy official merchandise, Mack said. Fanatics did not give a value for the deal.
Fanatics, a private company backed by investors including Softbank, was valued at $31 billion in its most recent funding round in December 2022. The company says its merchandise business will bring in sales of $6 billion this year.
The acquisition comes as Italian soccer enjoys a resurgence: Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Napoli are all in the Champions League quarter-finals, the first time since 2005-2006 that three Italian clubs have made it that far in the competition.
As part of the deal, EPI’s name will change to Fanatics Italy and all 150 of its employees will join the group.