Meet GSI Commerce, The Biggest E-Commerce Empire You've Never Heard Of

GSI Commerce is buying Fanatics, a network of sports-oriented e-commerce sites, for a cool $277 million.

What’s GSI, you may ask?

GSI is actually one of the biggest players in e-commerce, but it stays behind the scenes. It had revenues around $1 billion last year and has a market cap around $1.5 billion.

The company was founded in 1995 and is public on the Nasdaq. GSI makes white label enterprise software for bricks and mortar retailers to build online commerce sites. GSI operates or helps operate the commerce sites for NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR and ESPN (so buying a retailer of sports merchandise makes sense), and sites for brands like Zales, iRobot, Timberland, Ace Hardware, Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, RadioShack, and Toys “R” Us.

So even though you may not have heard of them, you’ve actually probably already used their software.

But here’s the most interesting thing about GSI: as the Fanatics acquisition hints, they don’t just do e-commerce software anymore. They run e-commerce sites themselves. In 2009, they bought and Rue La La, which is the second biggest fashion flash sales site after Gilt Groupe.

Ironically, this is a return to the company’s roots. When it was founded it was called Global Sports Incorporated and sold sporting goods. Then in 1999 they pivoted to software. It seems that now they have a hybrid model of powering some sites and owning and operating others.

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