Fanatics teams up with Hillhouse in China

5 Mar 2021

Fanatics has formed an equal joint venture with Hillhouse Capital Group to cover the Chinese market for licensed team sports gear, which is estimated at several billion dollars.

Among the largest Asian private equity firms, Hillhouse was created in 2005 by Zhang Lei, a Chinese billionaire.

It has already been involved in the sports retail business, since Hillhouse led the privatisation of Belle International four years ago. Topsports, the group’s sports retail business, was spun off and listed in 2019. It ran over 8,000 stores around China at the end of August, most of them for the Nike and Adidas brands.

As reported last year, Hillhouse also formed a joint venture with Burton Snowboards for the Chinese market.

The deal with Fanatics comes just a few months after it secured $350 million in a fundraise led by Softbank, last August. The round valued Fanatics at $6.2 billion, and the company is said to be preparing an initial public offering.

Fanatics should be able to take advantage of the insights built up by Hillhouse in e-commerce, in part through prior investments in Tencent, JD.com and Baidu.

Fanatics chiefly sells team sports gear licensed from European football teams such as Chelsea, Manchester United, Paris-Saint Germain and Bayern Munich, as well as American sports leagues and teams.

Read the full story in Sporting Goods Report #53.

Sporting Goods Report is an independent publication providing exclusive analysis for business leaders in the sports, outdoor and active lifestyle industry, on top of key business news items.

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