Panini Signs Multiyear Deal With WWE for Wrestling Trading Cards
(Bloomberg) -- Panini SpA has signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. to be its exclusive trading-card partner as the collectibles industry realigns after a major shake-up.
The multiyear agreement will begin in the first quarter of 2022 and includes various trading-card products and collectible stickers. The items will be sold online and through mass-market retailers including Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., along with local hobby shops.
A cascade of new licensing deals has rearranged the trading-card sector as collectibles firms battle for exclusive rights from sports leagues and entertainment franchises. Sports merchandiser Fanatics Inc. upended the industry in September when it signed a series of new trading-card agreements across baseball, football and basketball.
Panini takes over the WWE from rival Topps Co., whose license with the wrestling promoter expires at the end of the year. Financial details weren’t disclosed, but the deal is believed to be worth at least $10 million over the term, according to a person familiar with the agreement.
Panini, based in Modena, Italy, is looking for new deals now that Fanatics is taking over its exclusive licenses related to the National Basketball Association and National Football League when they expire in a few years. Topps lost its grip on Major League Baseball, while Upper Deck Co. managed to keep its control of hockey, signing a long-term extension with the National Hockey League and its players’ union this week.
Talks for Panini to merge with Slam Corp., a blank-check firm backed by former baseball star Alex Rodriguez, ended after Fanatics signed its new agreements, Bloomberg News previously reported. Topps also saw its potential merger terminated for similar reasons.
Panini retains many other official licenses for trading cards, such as FIFA, Nascar and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It also works with entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Fortnite maker Epic Games Inc.
The WWE’s debut items with Panini will be released in the run-up to its annual WrestleMania event, set to take place in April at AT&T Stadium outside Dallas.
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