Fanatics-backed vintage sports brand Mitchell & Ness hires Nike executive as CEO
Mitchell & Ness was founded in 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mitchell & Ness, the lifestyle clothing brand known for its throwback and vintage jerseys and apparel that was acquired by Fanatics last year, has hired Nike executive Eli Kumekpor as its new CEO.
Kumekpor, who most recently served as the global vice president and general manager of Jordan Brand’s men’s business, will replace former CEO Kevin Wulff, who joined Fanatics when Mitchell & Ness was acquired and is now retiring.
Established in 1904 in Philadelphia, Mitchell & Ness makes 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, with the other 25% going 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 saw annual growth of 30%, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin told CNBC in October 2022.
Mitchell & Ness has signed several new rights deals since being acquired by Fanatics across a variety of leagues, colleges, and players’ associations, including a licensing deal with the NHL that covers all of its teams, and an expanded headwear and throwback jersey catalog with MLB.
While the brand will continue to lean into the heritage and nostalgia aspects of sports merchandise with jerseys of retired players and the usage of old logos and color schemes, Kumekpor said he sees an opportunity to further lean into the intersection of sports, culture, lifestyle, and fashion, taking many lessons from his time at Nike and Jordan Brand.
“There’s an opportunity served through the lens of vintage and the retired player base, but I think as we look at our partnerships, how do we now expand the footprint of that?” he said. “We want to serve that entire continuum from nostalgia and beyond, and that includes looking at opportunities with active rosters and active players.”
Kumekpor, who before Nike spent more than a decade in the health-care industry at companies including AstraZeneca, Alcon, Life Technologies, and Cigna, said he also sees room to grow the focus on “cutting edge innovation from a design perspective.”
“How do you take the old and make it new and fresh again,” he said, referencing some of the things that Jordan Brand has done around its extensive catalog of beloved sneakers. “Nostalgia means a lot of different things to different consumer groups, so we want to make sure we’re keeping the brand premium.”