New York Times - Topps, the trading card company, is going public in a deal that values it at $1.3 billion.
By Lauren Hirsch
April 6, 2021
Topps, known for its trading cards and Bazooka gum, is going public by merging with a blank-check firm in a deal that values the company at $1.3 billion, the DealBook newsletter was the first to report.
The transaction includes an investment of $250 million led by Mudrick Capital, the sponsor of the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, along with investors including Gamco and Wells Capital. Michael Eisner, the chairman of Topps and former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, will roll his entire stake into the new company and stay on.
“Everybody has a story about Topps,” Mr. Eisner said. That’s what initially attracted him to the trading card company, which he acquired in 2007 via his investment firm, Tornante, and Madison Dearborn for $385 million. Buying Topps was a bet on a brand that elicits an “emotional connection” as strong as Disney, the company Mr. Eisner ran for 21 years.
In the years since Mr. Eisner’s initial purchase, Topps has focused on a shift to digital, starting online apps for users to trade collectibles and play games. It also created “Topps Now,” which makes of-the-moment cards to capture a defining play or a pop culture meme. (It sold nearly 100,000 cards featuring Senator Bernie Sanders at the presidential inauguration in his mittens.) And it has moved into blockchain, too, via the craze for nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.
The pandemic has driven new interest in memorabilia, especially trading cards. Topps generated record sales of $567 million in 2020, a 23 percent jump over the previous year.
The secondhand market is particularly hot, with a Mickey Mantle card recently selling for more than $5 million. “Topps probably made something like a nickel on it, 70 years ago,” said Jason Mudrick, the founder of Mudrick Capital. NFT mania will allow Topps to take advantage of the secondhand market by linking collectibles to digital tokens. Topps is also growing beyond sports, like its partnerships with Marvel and “Star Wars.”
It continues to see value in its core baseball-card business, as athletes come up from the minor leagues more quickly. “The trading card business has been growing for the last several years,” Michael Brandstaedter, the chief executive of Topps, said. “While it definitely grew through the pandemic — and perhaps accelerated — it did not arrive with the pandemic.”
That resilience is part of the bet that Mudrick Capital is making on the 80-year old Topps. It’s a surer gamble, Mr. Mudrick said, than buying one of the many unprofitable start-ups currently courting SPAC deals. “Our core business is value investing,” he said.
Additional Information and Where to Find It
The foregoing article is being made available in respect of the proposed business combination (the “Business Combination”) involving Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corporation II (“MUDS”) and Topps Intermediate Holdco, Inc. (“Topps”). MUDS intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) a preliminary proxy statement relating to the Business Combination. This article does not contain all the information that should be considered concerning the Business Combination and is not intended to form the basis of any investment decision or any other decision in respect of the Business Combination. MUDS’ STOCKHOLDERS AND OTHER INTERESTED PERSONS ARE ADVISED TO READ, WHEN AVAILABLE, THE PRELIMINARY PROXY STATEMENT, ANY AMENDMENTS THERETO, THE DEFINITIVE PROXY STATEMENT AND ANY OTHER DOCUMENTS FILED, IN CONNECTION WITH MUDS’ SOLICITATION OF PROXIES FOR ITS SPECIAL MEETING OF STOCKHOLDERS TO BE HELD TO APPROVE THE BUSINESS COMBINATION AND OTHER MATTERS, AS THESE MATERIALS WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT MUDS, TOPPS AND THE BUSINESS COMBINATION. When available, the definitive proxy statement and other relevant materials for the Business Combination will be mailed to stockholders of MUDS as of the record date to be established for voting on the Business Combination. Stockholders of MUDS will also be able to obtain copies of the proxy statement and other documents filed with the SEC, without charge, once available, at the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. In addition, the documents filed by MUDS may be obtained free of charge from MUDS by directing a request to: Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corporation II, 527 Madison Avenue, Sixth Floor, New York, New York 10022.
Participants in Solicitation
MUDS, Topps and certain of their respective directors, executive officers and other members of management and employees may, under SEC rules, be deemed to be participants in the solicitations of proxies from MUDS’ stockholders in connection with the Business Combination. Information regarding the persons who may, under SEC rules, be deemed participants in the solicitation of MUDS’ stockholders in connection with the Business Combination will be set forth in MUDS’ proxy statement when it is filed with the SEC. You can find more information about MUDS’ directors and executive officers in MUDS’ Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, which was filed with the SEC on April 2, 2021. Additional information regarding the participants in the proxy solicitation and a description of their direct and indirect interests, by security holdings or otherwise, will be included in MUDS’ preliminary and definitive proxy statement when it becomes available. Stockholders, potential investors and other interested persons should read the proxy statement carefully when it becomes available before making any voting or investment decisions. When available, these documents can be obtained free of charge from the sources indicated above.