Sticker maker Panini is considering sale
Various parties are looking for a takeover of the Italian maker of football pictures Panini. The iconic brand has grown rapidly in recent decades by analogy with international football.
Panini – officially the Panini Group – has grown into what it calls the ‘world leader in collectible stickers and trading cards’. The logo – a spectacular 1950s kickback from Juventus player Carlo Parola – adds to the nostalgic aplomb of the Panini graphics. Panini is active in 150 countries worldwide and has more than 1,200 employees. The headquarters have been in Modena since its foundation.
Giuseppe and Benito Panini had been running a newspaper distribution center in that northern Italian city since 1955. Six years later they came up with the idea of selling sticky pictures of football players. The first album – the Calciatori Panini, devoted entirely to the Italian Serie A – was baptized in 1961. When Franco and Umberto joined the company two years later, they quickly transformed the Modena newsagent into a steamy sticker empire.
The boom came in 1970, when Panini obtained the license rights from the FIFA World Football Association to produce an album for the World Cup in Mexico. Since then, collectors worldwide have been exchanging frenetic pictures. An album signed by Brazilian superstar Pelé for the World Cup in 1970 yielded a record amount of 12,038 euros.
Those football tournaments are the most important cash cow for Panini. In World Cup years, turnover traditionally shoots up sharply. 2018 was a record year. Thanks to the World Cup in Russia, the Panini group then reached the milestone of 1 billion euros in income, about double the previous year.
In 2014, when the Red Devils qualified for a major tournament for the first time in twelve years, there was also a huge Panini hype in our country. Almost a million albums and more than 100 million stickers were then sold.
Over the years, the sticker manufacturer broadened its horizon to other sports branches. In 2009 Panini took over the American trading card company Donruss and Panini America was born. In the US, Panini signed licensing deals with the NBA (basketball), the NFL (American football) and the NHL (ice hockey).
Meanwhile, Panini is no longer under the control of the eponymous family. Umberto, the last of the four brothers, passed away in 2013. In 1988, the eccentric media mogul Robert Maxwell – the father of Jeffrey Epstein’s chaperone Ghislaine – seized the Panini Group. After many wanderings, Panini has been in the hands of management and the Italian conglomerate Fineldo since 1999.
Bloomberg news agency cites sources close to Panini who are aware of a possible sale. The publisher would hold talks with various investment funds. The negotiations would still be in an exploratory phase. Panini declined to comment.
Bloomberg points out that brand names with a rich history – which are often family businesses – are increasingly attractive prey to investors. Especially the historical cachet appeals.
Rumors already circulated in January about a possible sale of the Birkenstock sandals. The German family behind the brand is said to be in talks with the investment giant CVC about a takeover of about 4 billion euros. In 2017, CVC also bought the iconic Swiss Breitling watches for around 800 million euros.
> Owners: Fineldo and Panini management
> Turnover (2018): 1 billion euros
> Active in more than 150 countries