Industry 4.0 Fund

Fanatics Inc bets on Italian soccer with EPI deal

LONDON (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 sports e-commerce firm EPI, its first foray into the Italian market.

The deal, announced by the companies on Wednesday, will also see Fanatics take over the running of in-stadium stores for AC Milan, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, and Bologna.

Fanatics makes 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, chief executive of Fanatics Commerce and vice-chairman of Fanatics.

EPI, previously owned by Italian private equity firm Quadrivio Group's "Industry 4.0" fund, runs 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.

Alessandro Binello, chief executive of Quadrivio Group, said the sale of EPI confirmed the potential for Italian small and medium enterprises to develop on an international scale.

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.

As part of the deal, EPI's name will change to Fanatics Italy and all its 150 employees will join the group.