SoftBank invests $1 billion in sports e-commerce firm Fanatics: sources

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File photo

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - SoftBank Group Corp is investing $1 billion in Fanatics Inc as a part of a funding round that values the sports e-commerce company at $4.5 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The new funding is expected to close later this month, one of the people said, asking not to be named because the news was not yet public. Fanatics declined to comment and SoftBank could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jacksonville, Florida-based Fanatics is a leading sports merchandise licensor that handles e-commerce sales for teams and sports leagues around the world. It counts the National Football League and Major League Baseball as investors, along with several venture capital firms and technology companies.

SoftBank, run by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, is making the bulk of the $1 billion investment out of its $93 billion Vision Fund, the world’s biggest private equity fund, sources said. Its backers include Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co and Apple Inc.

SoftBank has been involved in a number of recent deals including acquisitions of two robotics businesses from Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. Other investments in the Vision Fund include stakes in chip designer ARM Holdings and satellite startup OneWeb.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the SoftBank investment in Fanatics on Tuesday.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Sandra Maler