MLB agrees to rights deal with Topps08/12/2009 2:14 PM ET
By Scott Kelnhofer
Major League Baseball Properties has granted the Topps Company with an exclusive, multi-year licensing deal that will make Topps the "Official Baseball Card" of Major League Baseball.
Under the terms of the agreement, Topps will have exclusivity on MLB, Jewel Event and Club trademarks, logos and other intellectual property, for use on baseball cards, stickers and certain other product categories featuring MLB players. Topps' exclusivity begins on Jan. 1.
Topps will become the first exclusive baseball-card company for MLB in nearly 30 years. It's first product for next season will be its 2010 Topps Baseball Series 1, scheduled for release in February.
Officials at Major League Baseball say the decision to grant an exclusive licensing contract for baseball cards is designed to boost sales by eliminating confusion of product choices for new collectors, particularly youngsters.
"Topps has, over the years, clearly distinguished itself as the leader in the industry and the best brand in the business," said Howard Smith, Senior Vice President, Licensing, Major League Baseball Properties. "This exclusive agreement with Topps follows similar arrangements in other categories that have resulted in superior products for fans and, in turn, unprecedented business success."
Michael Eisner and The Tornante Company, a private investment company he founded in 2005, acquired Topps in 2007 along with Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC.
"We are looking forward to working closely with MLB Properties and its Clubs to invest in innovation and creativity to bring baseball cards and other collectible items to new audiences for many years to come," said Eisner.
"Topps has been making baseball cards for over 50 years and signed our first agreement with Major League Baseball Properties in 1969," said Topps CEO and President Scott Silverstein. "Now, 40 years later, we are delighted to be taking this relationship to new heights."
For the past four years, Topps and Upper Deck have both had licenses with MLB and the MLB Players Association to produce baseball cards. Upper Deck renewed its license with the MLBPA and will continue to produce cards picturing players, but it will not have rights to include team logos on its cards.
"Looking ahead to 2010, we are 100-percent committed to building the highest quality and most innovative baseball cards in the industry," said Upper Deck CEO Richard McWilliam. "Great cards of great players will continue to be the cornerstone of all Upper Deck products."
Both Topps and Upper Deck have pledged to continue their marketing efforts to grow baseball-card awareness and collecting among youngsters.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.