Fanatics Can Continue Hiring Panini Employees, Judge Rules
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A district court judge in Texas ruled Monday that card maker Panini can’t stop its competitor Fanatics from hiring its employees after nearly 13% of Panini’s American workforce have been lured away in recent months.
Panini filed a lawsuit last week hoping for an injunction against Fanatics that would have halted future hirings. Panini said in the lawsuit that seven people in “high-ranking management positions” had been recently poached by Fanatics, alongside 27 others.
Thanks in part to its $500 million acquisition of Topps last year — in addition to new rights deals on the way — Fanatics is now the fastest growing employer in the sports collectible business. Fanatics is also building out a sizable sports betting operation, hiring talent away from other companies across that industry, too.
As long as the former Panini employees that are now at Fanatics don’t solicit current Panini employees — and so long as new Fanatics employees don’t use information and ideas from their days at Panini — Fanatics can continue hiring at-will.
Fanatics announced earlier this month that it would open a new collectibles office in Dallas, miles away from where Panini’s American offices are headquartered.
Multiple sources said Panini — in an effort to keep some of the employees — countered with lavish offers, but to no avail. A Panini spokesperson could not be reached for comment. A Fanatics spokesperson declined comment.
Fanatics has rights to the NBPA and the NBA starting in the 2026-27 season, but indications are the company will produce basketball cards sooner. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported last week that Fanatics will make NBA cards in time for next season. The company has also added licenses for college football and basketball and will bring on the UFC next January.
Among the big names that went from Panini to Fanatics include Brian Bayne, a senior executive who managed Panini’s athlete relationships. That Fanatics hiring — alongside Omar Wilkes, a former basketball agent at Klutch Sports Group — indicates the company will aggressively pursue exclusive partnerships with athletes.
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