A long time dealer and distributor has filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball Properties for attempting to stop its business at big league parks.
A Texas company that packages, distributes and sells baseball card team lots is suing Major League Baseball over what it claims are attempts to destroy its business.
HLT&T of Houston has been selling packaged cards with players representing one team to concession vendors at most Major League ballparks since 2000. Court papers filed in Texas this week and obtained by Sports Collectors Daily include HLT&T claims that MLB buyers are telling those vendors not to buy the product because it isn’t an officially licensed product. HLT&T claims MLB’s move has caused a potentially devastating drop in sales.
The company’s origin as a distributor grew out of its store in Houston, where it had an agreement to sell cards at the Astrodome in the late 1990s. HLT&T included a letter in the lawsuit in which MLB Properties appears to have given it permission to repackage previously sold baseball cards for resale when the company proposed expanding its business to other teams in August of 2000. HLT&T proceeded with its expansion after receiving the letter. HLT&T says its annual sales have since grown to $350,000.
“The product sells quite well and sales have increased each year,” the company stated in the suit. “Even in today’s economic circumstances, sales were increasing.”
According to the suit, MLBP circulated what was referred to as a Club Retail Update which told buyers for team shops that “C&I Collectibles and HLT&T are not licensed vendors of baseball cards. Topps and Upper Deck are the only two licensed baseball card manufacturers and our marketing materials are fully funded by each of them.”
HLT&T was selling lots pieced together from Topps and Upper Deck products but says it was not using MLB logos on its packaging.
The suit claims HLT&T has suffered damages in excess of $225,000. The company says it has lost $175,000 because of MLB’s actions and $50,000 in inventory it cannot sell. It charges MLB with tortuous interference with a prospective business relationship and negligent misrepresentation. HLT&T is also seeking exemplary damages and costs of the suit.
“The only conclusion that can be drawn given the long history of this product and MLBP’s knowledge and acceptance of it, is that the recent actions are motivated by a desire to eliminate HLT&T as a competing seller of a similar product,” stated HLT&T attorney J. Steven Stewart.
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