Online and e-commerce sports merchandise retailer, Fanatics, is the most recent company to receive an investment from SoftBank, a source close to the matter told CNBC.
SoftBank and Fanatics are close to sealing up a $1 billion deal, raising Fanatics’ valuation to $4.5 billion. A part of the sizable bet that the startup’s licensing agreements with the NFL and others, allow it to contend with e-commerce giant Amazon, according to people familiar with the matter.
The investment in the e-commerce company is scheduled to close this month as part of a round of funding. The NFL brought in $95 million and Major League Baseball added $50 million earlier this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Fanatics sells licensed sports apparel and merchandise on its website, and also organizes web sales for many sports leagues. Doug Mack, who became CEO of Fanatics in 2014, emphasized data as the “heartbeat” of the company.
Japan’s SoftBank declared its goal to invest in the “information revolution,” especially corporations that need significant growth funding. In April, SoftBank made an initial investment of an undisclosed sum, according to a person familiar with the matter, but the bulk of the $1 billion investment came from SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund. The fund, whose investors include Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth funds as well as Apple and Qualcomm, is still being completed after gathering $93 billion in an initial closing in May. SoftBank’s latest push of investments, many of which fall into the so-called Vision Fund, include chip company Nvidia and cancer treatment start-up Guardant Health.
Online commerce is a highly competitive field as Amazon covers most of the market. Chinese e-commerce platform, Alibaba, which also counts SoftBank as a major investor and strategic partner and considers Amazon an arch-rival, has also invested in Fanatics.
Fanatics made no comment on the deal nor were officials immediately available for comment.