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The 2022 CNBC Disruptors are 50 private companies growing and innovating through a challenging market and changed world, while inspiring change in their larger, incumbent competitors.

Founder: Michael Rubin (CEO)
Launched: 2011
Headquarters: Jacksonville, Florida
$4.2 billion
Valuation: $27 billion
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 2 (No. 25 in 2019)

Persephone Kavallines

Fanatics has established itself as the leader for sports merchandise and commerce, with exclusive licensing deals ranging from the NFL and NBA to the International Olympic Committee.

Now it’s looking to expand its sports industry reach even further, setting its sights on digital collectibles, sports betting, and trading cards.

Its recently launched NFT and digital collectible company, Candy Digital, secured initial exclusive rights with MLB and the MLBPA to create digital products around baseball, aiming to do what Dapper Labs, ranked No. 10 on this year’s Disruptor 50 list, has done around the NBA. Candy Digital said it raised $100 million in Series A round from investors like SoftBank’s Vision 2 Fund and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, valuing it at $1.5 billion.

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Last year, Fanatics hired former FanDuel CEO Matt King as part of an effort to break into the now booming U.S. sports betting market. While it made an unsuccessful bid for a New York online sports betting license, losing out to companies like DraftKings, Caesars and FanDuel, Fanatics is reportedly looking at potential acquisitions in the space.

Perhaps the biggest part of the sports business industry Fanatics is disrupting is trading cards. The company surprised many last August when it landed a deal with MLB to be its partner for cards, supplanting Topps in the process, which had become nearly synonymous with baseball cards dating back to 1952. It also secured the trading card licenses for the NFL and NBA.

Fanatics then acquired the Michael Eisner-owned Topps in January for roughly $500 million following Topps’ $1.3 billion SPAC merger that fell apart after it lost the MLB rights.

It also saw a sports commerce boon as leagues welcomed back fans to stadiums and largely played seasons unencumbered by Covid-19. Fanatics has said it is projecting $4.5 billion in revenue for its e-commerce business in 2022, up from $2.3 billion before the pandemic. The company claims it has more than 80 million users across its businesses, providing further business opportunities for its new ventures geared towards sports fans.

All of that has helped Fanatics raise several rounds over the last year. The latest, in March, totaled $1.5 billion from investors like the NFL, NFL Players Association, MLB and the NHL. Other investors include Fidelity, BlackRock and Michael Dell’s MSD Partners, among others.

Fanatics’ valuation has seen a jump as a result to $27 billion, up from $18 billion less than a year ago.

“We’re thinking about how to build a company that’s beloved by billions of sports fans globally,” Fanatics CEO and founder Michael Rubin said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on March 4. “Valuation just follows the business results.”

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