BlackRock will conduct a racial equity audit. The money-management giant agreed to examine how its policies and practices contribute to racial injustices, Bloomberg reports. Other Wall Street firms, including Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, have asked shareholders to reject investor proposals for similar audits.
Exclusive: Topps is going public via SPAC
Topps, known for its trading cards and Bazooka gum, is going public by merging with a SPAC in a deal that values the company at $1.3 billion. The transaction includes an investment of $250 million led by the SPAC sponsor Mudrick Capital, along with investors including GAMCO and Wells Capital. Michael Eisner, the former Disney C.E.O. who is Topps’s chairman, will roll his entire stake into the new company, and stay on.
“Everybody has a story about Topps,” Mr. Eisner said. That’s what initially attracted him to the trading card company, which he acquired in 2007 via his investment firm, Tornante, and Madison Dearborn for $385 million. Buying Topps was a bet on a brand that elicits an “emotional connection” as strong as Disney, the company Mr. Eisner ran for 21 years. (And he knows the value of sports: At Disney, he helped acquire ESPN via ABC.)
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Topps has focused on a shift to digital, launching online apps for users to trade collectibles and play games. It also created “Topps Now,” which makes of-the-moment cards to capture a defining play or a pop culture meme. (It sold nearly 100,000 cards featuring Bernie Sanders at the presidential inauguration in his mittens.) And, yes, it has gotten into blockchain, too, via the craze for nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.
The pandemic has increased interest in memorabilia, with a Mickey Mantle card recently selling for $5.2 million. “Topps probably made something like a nickel on it, 70 years ago,” said Jason Mudrick, the founder of Mudrick Capital. NFT mania will allow Topps to take advantage of the secondhand market by linking collectibles to digital tokens. The executives involved in the merger stressed that an NFT boost was not part of their projections, nor a driver of the deal. Topps is focused on digital investments and growth beyond sports, like its partnerships with Marvel and “Star Wars.” The company generated record sales of $567 million in 2020, a 23 percent jump over the previous year.
Michael Brandstaedter, the C.E.O. of Topps, said he expected baseball memorabilia to continue to be lifted by trends like players coming up from the minor leagues more quickly even after the pandemic bump fades.
Can it keep up the momentum? Among the industries attracting SPAC investors, Mr. Mudrick said that collectibles — both digital and physical — were the surest bet. “Our core business is value investing,” he said, and “we just couldn’t wrap our heads around” electric vehicles, drones and the other sectors that are hot for SPACs.