January 6th, 2011

Sources: Liberty Set to Close Fanball

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

It appears that Liberty Media has decided to shut down Fanball, according to various sources.

Rumors of such a possibility began to surface early Wednesday morning, and by Thursday morning FSB.com was able to confirm with Fanball employees that Liberty had informed them Wednesday of the impending action and that they were not to speak publicly about the plans.

Of course, no official announcement has yet come from Fanball or Liberty, which might leave open the possibility of a different resolution here. We have heard from multiple sources that there will be a meeting with Liberty decision makers next week, though no specifics have been shared on the expected topics of that meeting.

If it comes to fruition, the closure will be a surprising development for a company that had made several high-profile acquisitions over the past several years, including the NFFC and NFBC.

It’s also a sad development for the industry in which many of us reside. Fanball has been a key player in the fantasy sports industry since before there was enough out there to call it an “industry.” It began back in 1993 as a magazine called Fantasy Football Weekly, created by Paul Charchian and Rob Phythian and quickly grew into a full-service fantasy company with games, content and — as of this year — a couple of spots in the lineup on Sirius XM’s fantasy sports channel.

FUN Technologies acquired the pieces that now combine to make up Fanball in 2005 and 2006, with Liberty Media acquiring FUN and all of its parts in 2007. One of those pieces, which became part of Fanball in 2006, was fellow fantasy veteran company CDM Sports.

“I’m very sad for all the dedicated employees and for the loyal customers who supported the games and services for almost 20 years,” Charlie Wiegert, co-founder of CDM, told FSB.com Thursday of the apparent pending closure.

Should the news become official, we’ll look more into what might happen to various pieces, particularly the NFBC (and associated events), which is gearing up for the 2011 baseball season.

Should Liberty go through with the closure of Fanball, let’s just hope it stands as the story of one large corporation deciding that it no longer wanted to operate a specific portion of its business. Otherwise, it might serve as an ominous sign for independent fantasy businesses in a landscape increasingly populated by large companies with interests that don’t lie close enough to our games.