World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will join to form a new company in a blockbuster deal announced Monday.
Endeavor group holdings Inc., which already runs a mixed martial arts promoter ufcwill acquire a 51 per cent interest in WWEwhile existing shareholders of the publicly traded company will retain 49 percent control.
wwe executive chairman Vince McMahonwho returned to the company in January to spearhead talks for a sale after resigns amid allegations of sexual misconduct last year, will remain Chairman of the Board of the newly merged company. ufc president dana white will retain his role, Nick Khan will move from CEO to Chairman of WWE, and Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel will serve in the same role at the newly merged company.
The deal values the UFC at $21.3 billion and WWE at $9.3 billion. Last year, WWE posted revenue of $1.3 billion.
Rumors swirled about who might be interested in buying WWE, with the talk turning to companies like Endeavor, Disney, Fox, Comcast, Amazon, and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.
Media industry analysts viewed WWE as an attractive acquisition target given its global reach and loyal fan base, which includes everyone from minors to seniors and a wide range of incomes.
The deal with the UFC comes a day after WWE’s main event, WrestleMania, took place over two nights at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
The weekend’s matches included performances not only from WWE mainstays like Roman Reigns, Rey Mysterio, John Cena and Cody Rhodes, but also from mainstream stars including social media influencers Logan Paul and KSI, the pop superstars Snoop Dogg and Bad Bunny and tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. George Kittle.
Canadian wrestlers Edge, Trish Stratus, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were also among the best fighters at WrestleMania 39.
There is already a synergy of talent between WWE and the UFC, with stars like Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey crossing over between the two businesses.
The newly created company would seek to capitalize on consumers’ desire to engage in live experiences, a trend that has resumed since the height of the pandemic, and their appetite for betting on sports, Endeavor President Mark Shapiro said. who will serve in the same capacity in the new company.
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The new company, which has no name yet, plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “TKO.” Its board will have 11 members, with six appointed by Endeavor and five by WWE.
The transaction, which was approved by the Endeavor and WWE boards, is targeted to close in the second half of the year.
Under the deal, which a source says is known internally as Project Stunner, the UFC and WWE will also contribute cash to the new company, making it worth nearly $150 million.
The deal values each WWE share at $106, representing a 16 percent premium to the company’s Friday close.
WWE shares rallied a bit in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, but still ended the day about two percent lower, while Endeavor was down nearly six percent. One analyst said that WWE investors may have been disappointed that this was not an all-cash transaction.
“Maybe the final structure of this was not aligned with their short-term thinking about how it might work,” said John Healy, an analyst at Northcoast Research.
— With files from Associated Press, Reuters
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