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Topps Will Sell Its Sports Card Business to Fanatics, a Rival

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Topps, the business that put Bazooka bubble gum together with baseball cards more than half a century ago, now belongs to a fast-growing sports memorabilia empire that nearly knocked Topps out of the baseball-card game.

On Tuesday, Topps announced that it had sold its sports card business to Fanatics, a multibillion-dollar, 10-year-old company whose licensing business was built on sports fandom, technology and networking. The deal values Topps’s sports and entertainment division at slightly more than $500 million, according to people with knowledge of the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the information is confidential.

Topps had previously announced a deal to go public. But in August, the company was blindsided when it lost its licensing agreement with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to Fanatics, putting its future in doubt. Fanatics and Topps began discussing the acquisition of Topps’s card business roughly a month after Topps lost the baseball contract, a person familiar with the situation said.

“Topps is synonymous with card collecting — it’s the primary brand that people think of when you think of baseball cards and sports cards,” said Chris Ivy, the director of sports auctions for Heritage Auctions. “So the fact that they will be continuing going forward, I think is a great thing both for collectors and the industry as a whole.”

The Topps deal mirrors Fanatics’s purchase of the apparel company Majestic, which it acquired after winning the rights to make major-league uniforms, contracts that Majestic had previously won. The deal announced on Tuesday also underscores the breadth of businesses Fanatics has built, aiming to grow beyond ticketing and television, both of which are difficult to expand rapidly. Leagues are looking to new places for revenue, including advertisements on jerseys and legalized sports gambling — and trading card licensing agreements.

The Topps playing card business may not immediately transform under its new ownership. Topps cards will still carry the Topps logo, and the division’s roughly 350 employees will work for the Topps brand independently within Fanatics. But longer term, Fanatics hopes to create for Topps the digital agility that helped transform its licensed apparel business, which is set up to respond quickly to quick shifts in the popularity of an athlete.

Fanatics started its playing card business last year, around the same time it struck deals with unions for N.F.L. and N.B.A. players to produce football and basketball trading cards. The business raised $350 million in September in a deal that valued it at more than $10 billion. With the acquisition of Topps, Fanatics has the right to design, manufacture and distribute baseball cards starting immediately. (Fanatics’ original deal with Major League Baseball and the players’ union had allowed for a 2026 start.

Michael Rubin, the chief executive of Fanatics, called trading cards and collectibles “a significant pillar” in the company’s plans to become a “leading digital sports platform.” Mr. Rubin, whose circle includes Jay-Z and the baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, has in the last decade created a licensing and manufacturing company valued at $18 billion. Beyond hoodies and hats, Fanatics has also begun gambling and video game businesses.

Its bet on trading cards reflects a pandemic-driven interest in memorabilia, as nostalgia-driven investors have found themselves flush. In January, a Mickey Mantle card sold for $5.2 million. In August, a Honus Wagner card sold for $6.6 million. In October, a Michael Jordan card sold for $2.7 million.

Topps has ridden that wave, bringing in record sales of $567 million in 2020, a 23 percent jump over the previous year. Now Fanatics faces the question of whether it can sustain momentum given the trading card industry’s susceptibility to booms and busts.

The nearly century-old Topps has been through both. The company was started in Brooklyn in 1938 as Topps Chewing Gum, an effort to revive a struggling family tobacco distribution business. A little over a decade later, it began to package its gum with “Magic Photo Cards,” which featured Babe Ruth, Cy Young and other baseball stars. It started its annual set of baseball cards in 1952.

In 2007, Topps was acquired for $385 million by Tornante, an investment firm founded by Michael Eisner, the former Walt Disney Company chief executive, and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners. Under its new ownership, Topps started Topps Now, which sells of-the-moment cards to capture a defining play or a pop culture meme. It also began to offer its cards as NFTs.

Mr. Eisner said in a statement on Tuesday that “the strong emotional connection between Topps collectibles and consumers of all ages” would make it “a jewel in the Fanatics portfolio.”

Topps’s plan to go public had valued its entire business at roughly $1.3 billion. That deal included its confectionary brands like Bazooka gum and its gift card business, which Tornante and Madison Dearborn continue to own. The candy and gift card unit brought in a third of Topps’s sales last year, according to an investor presentation prepared for the transaction. It has been renamed Bazooka Companies.

Tornante also maintains the rights to produce movies and television shows based on Topps brands, including the video game franchise MechWarrior/BattleTech and Garbage Pail Kids, a series of sticker trading cards introduced in 1985 as a parody of Cabbage Patch Kids.

Kevin Draper and Katherine Rosman contributed reporting.

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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