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Kitbag, multichannel retailer to sporting stars, has a new owner

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Kitbag, which operates websites and shops on behalf of sporting partners from Manchester City FC and Chelsea to the Tour de France and Formula1, has a new owner following an £11.5m deal.

The multichannel sports retailer, which sells through Kitbag.com and white label sites for partners that also include Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Wimbledon, the Ryder Cup and the RFU, has been bought from Findel by Fanatics UK Holdings, a subsidiary of US market-leading business Fanatics Inc. Fanatics says the deal will help it expand around the world.

Fanatics runs more than 300 online and offline stores, including the ecommerce businesses of the major US professional sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, and the PGA. Its turnover is more than $1bn.

The new owners say they have big plans for the business. Fanatics chief executive Doug Mack said: “We could not be more excited to work with the Kitbag team to build upon their multichannel capabilities, expertise in soccer and strong portfolio of partners to accelerate both our US and international growth.

“Fanatics and Kitbag are a nearly perfect complement, creating a complete platform for sports fans, leagues, teams and manufacturers globally which will grow the licensed sports industry.”

Kitbag chief executive Andy Anson (pictured) said: “Kitbag and Fanatics are complementary propositions. Fanatics’ focus has been to grow and develop business in the US, while the majority of Kitbag’s presence is in Europe and the rest of the world. As a consequence, the globalisation of all the major sports we serve together creates fantastic opportunities for future growth and expansion.

“Kitbag will, in effect, be operating as the international arm of Fanatics and we will undoubtedly be a much stronger business under Fanatics’ ownership.”

In the year to March 27, Kitbag reported pre-tax losses of £2.2m, down from a loss of £14.9m in the previous year thanks to top-line growth of 11.7%.

Findel said it would be selling the business at a “marginal loss”, but that the deal would strengthen its balance sheet, while enabling it to focus elsewhere.

“We believe that this transaction represents a good outcome for all concerned,” said David Sugden, executive chairman of Findel. “As Kitbag builds upon its strengthened position, it will benefit from the expertise and international presence in this marketplace that Fanatics offers. As for Findel, this deal will strengthen our balance sheet and significantly reduce our average working capital requirement, which is consistent with our ambition to focus our resources more fully on driving growth within our core home shopping and education businesses.”

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