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Marvel Entertainment Agrees To Buy Skybox Deal May Strengthen Marvel’s Spot In Trading Card Business

One of the Big Three players in the trading card business is about to get a lot bigger.

Marvel Entertainment Group Inc., the owner of market leading Fleer trading cards, said Thursday it has agreed to pay about $150 million in cash for rival card marketer Skybox International Inc.

Skybox, which ranks fourth in the card business, sells pro football and basketball sports cards as well as entertainment cards tied to characters in movies like “The Lion King” and TV shows like the “Star Trek” series.

The deal should strengthen Marvel’s position in the estimated $1 billion annual trading card market.

Fleer markets cards for baseball and hockey, which have each been hurt by strikes over the past year, as well as in football and basketball. It also has a growing entertainment card business.

Fleer, Topps and Upper Deck each had about 20-21 percent shares of the market last year with Skybox at about 11 percent, said Harry DeMott, who follows the industry for CS First Boston.

Marvel, controlled by Revlon Inc. Chairman Ronald Perelman, said it had agreed to make a tender offer at $16 a share for Skybox’s nearly 9.4 million shares. That is a 24 percent premium over Skybox’s closing price of $12.87-1/2 a share on Wednesday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

In the wake of Thursday’s announcement, Skybox climbed $2.84 a share to $15.72. Marvel rose $1.37-1/2 a share to $16.87-1/2 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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