A-Rod Sees Great Potential in Collectibles, Women’s Basketball

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Former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez says there’s an opportunity for growth in the red-hot sports memorabilia market as investors look at alternative assets to park their money in.

“The collectible business is an at all-time high, but I do think that there’s room for growth because people are looking into alternative investments,” like art, cars and watches, Rodriguez said in an interview with Alix Steel and Guy Johnson on Bloomberg TV. “I think sports cards sit right in the middle of that.”

A-Rod Sees Great Potential in Collectibles, Women’s Basketball

Rodriguez appears poised to back this talk up with action: His special purpose acquisition company, Slam Corp., is considering a deal with collectibles company Panini SpA in a transaction that would value the combined entity at $3 billion or more, Bloomberg News reported this week. Panini, based in Italy, makes sports cards, stickers and other collectibles that can warrant high prices for rare items. The company surpassed $1 billion in annual sales in 2018.

Rodriguez and his business partner, former Walmart Inc. e-commerce chief Marc Lore, who also spoke on Bloomberg TV, declined to comment on the potential deal. But Rodriguez said he sees a “massive upside” in direct-to-consumer sales of memorabilia that bypasses retailers.

The pair have been busy partners over the past year. After losing out to billionaire Steve Cohen in an effort to buy MLB’s New York Mets, they reached an agreement to acquire a stake in the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. That process is still ongoing and Rodriguez and Lore declined to comment on that deal.

Rodriguez did say there’s major potential in women’s basketball, which has been getting more exposure as it attracts fans, sponsors and investment.

“The WNBA has tremendous upside,” said Rodriguez. “And we’d like to find ways, if we’re lucky enough to enter the space, to elevate the WNBA to a level where it should be.”

Early Bets

Rodriguez and Lore met through a mutual friend over Zoom and quickly became close, both socially and through their business dealings.

“We just hit it off and became fast friends and started getting involved in lots of different business opportunities,” said Lore. Rodriguez quipped that while the two are very different, they have complementary skills.

“He’s very smart; I hit baseballs a lot,” he said.

The pair started a new venture capital firm earlier this year with $50 million of their own money, with ambitions to raise as much as $500 million. The plan is to take large stakes in early-stage companies.

The firm will make investments across industries, not just sports and e-commerce, Lore said. Once on board with a startup, they’ll help founders with vision, raising capital and recruit employees to these companies.

One example is NOW//with, a social commerce startup that’s invite-only for now. Rodriguez and Lore’s company -- Venture/Capital/People -- acquired a 40% stake in May for $10 million.

“We come in really early, right at the beginning, pre-seed, when there’s really nothing but an idea,” said Lore.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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