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Fanatic-backed vintage sports brand Mitchell & Ness hires a Nike exec as CEO

Mitchell & Ness was founded in 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Source: Fanatics

Mitchell & Ness, the lifestyle clothing brand known for its retro and vintage jerseys and apparel that was acquired by Fanatics last year, has shut down Nike Managing Director Eli Kumekpor appointed new CEO.

Kumekpor, who most recently served as global vice president and general manager of Jordan Brand's men's business, will replace former CEO Kevin Wulff, who joined Fanatics with the Mitchell & Ness acquisition and is now retiring.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1904, Mitchell & Ness manufactures and sells vintage jerseys and apparel collections for nearly every major sports league. Fanatics acquired a 75% stake in the company in February 2022 in a deal that valued the company at $250 million, while the other 25% went to a group of celebrities and athletes, including Jay-Z, Lebron James , Kevin Hart and Kevin Durant .

In 2022, the company was a $350 million business and was growing 30% annually, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin told CNBC in October 2022.

Mitchell & Ness has signed several new rights deals for various leagues, colleges and player associations since its acquisition by Fanatics, including a licensing deal with the NHL covering all of their teams, and an expanded catalog of hats and retro jerseys with MLB.

While the brand will continue to focus on the heritage and nostalgia aspects of sporting goods with jerseys worn by retired players and the use of legacy logos and color schemes, Kumekpor sees an opportunity to focus more on the intersection between sport, culture, lifestyle and sporting goods, according to Kumekpor focus. and fashion, drawing many lessons from his time at Nike and Jordan Brand.

“There's an opportunity offered through the lens of the old players and the retired player base, but I think as we look at our partnerships, how can we now expand the reach of those players?” he said. “We want to serve the whole continuum of nostalgia and beyond, and that includes exploring opportunities with active rosters and active players.”

Kumekpor, who before Nike worked in the healthcare industry for more than a decade at companies including AstraZeneca, Alcon, Life Technologies and Cigna, said he also sees room for a greater focus on “breakthrough innovation from a design perspective.”

“How do you take the old and make it new and fresh again,” he said, citing some of the things Jordan Brand has done around its extensive catalog of popular sneakers. “Nostalgia means many different things to different consumer groups, so we want to make sure we maintain the Premium brand.”

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