Rivals vie for trading card giant

A bidding war is underway for US trading card institution Topps, with Upper Deck and former Disney boss Michael Eisner both looking to acquire the firm.
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Upper Deck appears to have topped the former Disney CEO’s bid with an unsolicited $416 million offer. The investment group lead by Eisner has bid $385m.

The $10.75-a-share move muddies the waters for Topps' board of directors, the majority of whom have endorsed the $9.75-a-share friendly takeover offer from Eisner's investment company, Tornante and private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners.

Industry observers say Upper Deck's bid for Topps could be a serious attempt to corner the sports card market, or just get a look inside its rival's books.

The US sports trading card business is a shrinking market with kids drawn to other diversions such as the Internet and computer games. Wholesale revenue will reach an estimated $300 million this year, a drop from one 1992 survey that had sales at $1.2 billion.

In an attempt to shore up sales, Major League Baseball eliminated the glut of cards in the market by reducing the number of licensees from four to two — Upper Deck and Topps resulting in a dramatic increase in baseball sales for both companies.

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