Johnson Signs Exclusive Trading Card Deal

ARLINGTON, Texas – Panini America, a subsidiary of The Panini Group, the leading global publisher of sports and entertainment collectables, announced today that it has entered into an exclusive relationship with Wesley Johnson, the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie and the fourth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The partnership with Panini America, the exclusive trading card and sticker licensee of the NBA, marks Johnson’s first NBA trading card deal.

“It speaks volumes to be associated with the company that has Kobe,” said Minnesota Timberwolves Forward, Wesley Johnson. “After last year's rookies and what Tyreke and Brandon did, it's lot of pressure, but me and Evan (Turner) are ready to carry the torch.”

As part of the relationship, Panini will hold exclusive rights to include Johnson’s autograph in 2010-11 Panini Basketball products. In addition, Panini may include Johnson’s image on Panini packaging and will utilize Johnson in promotional appearances.

Johnson, a Forward at Syracuse decided to forgo his final year of college eligibility after being named Big East Player of the Year in 2010 as well as a First Team AP All American. Johnson’s first NBA cards will be included in Panini’s 2010 NBA Prestige product, set to arrive in stores at the end of September. The collection will include cards from other top rookie draft picks, including Washington Wizards’ number one draft pick, John Wall; Philadelphia 76ers, Evan Turner; New Jersey Nets, Derrick Favors; and Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins.

“We are excited to add Wesley Johnson as an exclusive Panini athlete, Wesley excited Syracuse fans in college, we expect him to do the same for the Timberwolves fans and we look forward to introducing Wesley to NBA trading card collectors,” said Scott Prusha, Director of Marketing for Panini America.

In advance of Panini’s first season as the exclusive trading card for the NBA in 2009-10, Panini signed rookies including Sacramento Kings Guard and NBA Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans; Milwaukee Bucks Guard Brandon Jennings; and the Los Angeles Clippers Forward and first pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, Blake Griffin.

To launch the relationship, Panini has arranged for Johnson to visit ESPN headquarters for an extensive media tour Monday that will include stints on seemingly every ESPN platform.

Adds Johnson, “When I saw my first card, I thought it was a blessing. I collected a lot of cards when I was younger (some I still have in boxes in my mom’s garage), so I always wanted to be on my own trading card…the most valuable card I own now, is MINE!"

As the leading global publisher of sports and entertainment collectables, Panini has license agreements with three of the major U.S. sports, including the NFL/NFLPA, NHL/NHLPA and an Exclusive Trading Card and Sticker Partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA). Panini’s other partnerships include an exclusive license with FIFA for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and with five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Panini also has a successful collectibles business with consumer brands including DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon, Disney’s Toy Story 3, Hannah Montana and High School Musical, and Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter.

ABOUT PANINI:
The Panini Group, established almost 50 years ago in Modena, Italy has subsidiaries throughout Europe, Latin America and the United States. Panini is the world leader in officially licensed collectables and is the leading multi-national publisher of comics, children’s magazines and Manga in Europe and Latin America. Panini has distribution channels in more than 100 countries and employs a staff of over 800. For more information visit us at www.paniniamerica.net or www.paninigroup.com.
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