At about the same time the NBA announced it had selected Panini as its exclusive trading card licensee for the next four seasons, officials from the company say they began looking into the prospects of acquiring Donruss as a way to bring an experienced trading card sales, design and production team on board.
Peter Warsop, group licensing director for Panini, told SCD that conversations between the two companies began on Jan. 23. A week later, Donruss executives paid a visit to Panini’s corporate headquarters in Italy. Warsop said the company had already decided it would need to hire people familiar with the sports card industry as opposed to simply bringing personnel from Panini’s other businesses to run its U.S. subsidiary.
“After speaking to Donruss, it soon became apparent that their reputation for developing quality trading cards was unsurpassed within the industry for very many years and there was an immediate desire on our part to be associated with that heritage,” Warsop said. “Although we continued to work on our original plan of setting up our own office with experienced trade professional which could easily have become a reality for us, the alternative of bringing in such an experienced team as that at Donruss became our preferred option, especially after meeting them at their Texas base later in the month of February.”
The details of the purchase were ironed out in a relatively short amount of time, culminating in last week’s announcement of the deal being finalized.
Among the other topics addressed by Warsop:
• On the opportunities Panini sees in the U.S. trading card market: “The opportunity is considerable because the market has been delivered to a new low ebb; the future is therefore to bring back the confidence, the fun and excitement of the hobby which, of course, will mean slightly different things to different people. There is no one piece of the jigsaw missing. Rather, we have to accept that the general economic situation will hamper any quick and easy fix. But we will work on product quality and innovation, ensure the best in customer service, bring about some greater clarity through better and more succinct product descriptions and branding and then start to increase awareness through intensifying marketing.”
• On how the Panini name will be incorporated into the familiar names and brands of Donruss: “Panini will become the umbrella brand for our all our activities and so the Donruss company name has already been changed to Panini America, Inc. As for our products, we are still finalizing our plans. For now you can assume that the famous series names such as Prestige, Elite and the rest will be maintained and the master brand names of Panini, Donruss, Playoff and Score will be used to varying degrees.”
• On whether Panini will be pursuing additional sports card licenses: “What we have now provides an ideal base from which we can grow and organize our business. Our first focus is to provide our present licensors with the sort of service and market growth we are all looking for. Next, we will certainly we available to discuss other opportunities as they become available.”