Endeavor — the parent company to the UFC — has closed a deal to buy a majority share in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
The deal, which was first reported by CNBC, will see Endeavor take 51 percent control over the professional wrestling outfit with the other 49 percent maintained by current stockholders. As a result of the ownership deal, Endeavor is then expected to make a new publicly traded company that would combine the assets of the UFC and WWE together.
Ari Emanuel, who is currently CEO at Endeavor, would act as executive chairman over the company combining WWE and UFC. Mark Shapiro will be president and chief operating officer of both Endeavor and the new company
Dana White would remain president at the UFC while Nick Khan would stay in charge of WWE under the new ownership umbrella.
“This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed,” said Emanuel in a statement. “For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation, and we are confident that Endeavor can deliver significant additional value for shareholders by bringing UFC and WWE together.”
Purchasing WWE is the latest major investment by Endeavor after the company, previously best known as a talent agency that operated as William Morris Endeavor, bought the UFC in 2016 for just over $4 billion. The investment in UFC has paid off huge for Endeavor with the MMA promotion constantly serving as a significant part of the company’s overall earnings including $1.3 billion in revenue generated in 2022.
As part of the deal to purchase WWE, Endeavor placed an evaluation on the UFC at over $12 billion.
“This company has been on fire for the last seven years and now that we will be adding WWE to the portfolio, I am excited to take this to another level,” White said in a statement released on Monday.
“Vince is a savage in the wrestling space. Ari is a beast at what he does and then add what we at UFC bring to the table and there is no limit to what this company can accomplish in the next few years.”
The sale to Endeavor comes after WWE had been shopped around for the better part of the past year with the pro wrestling outfit continuing to rake in monster profits including $1.29 billion in revenue in 2022.
More recently, WWE has faced a number of controversies — primarily driven by now former owner McMahon after he briefly retired from the company due to the revelation that he had paid out millions of dollars in settlements over alleged misconduct, which included past affairs with numerous women. An SEC filing showed that McMahon paid out $14.6 million in hush money to several women over alleged sexual misconduct claims between 2006 and 2022.
McMahon eventually stepped down from his role as executive chairman only to return to the company months later, which led to a recent two-year employment agreement he reached with WWE. As a result of McMahon’s return, his daughter Stephanie McMahon actually stepped down from the company and a co-CEO role she shared with Khan.
Her husband Paul Levesque — better known by his stage name “Triple H” — remains part of WWE with creative control over the company, which was a role he assumed when McMahon retired.
The new employment agreement signed by McMahon will see him continue with WWE under Endeavor’s ownership and he will answer directly to Emanuel.
Despite the negative attention surrounding McMahon, WWE has only continued to grow with stock prices up more than 33 percent in 2023, which gives the company a market value just under $7 billion. WWE is also looking at a new media and broadcast rights deal in the near future, which could see even bigger revenue generated in coming years.
Back in February as part of a quarterly earnings call with investors, Emanuel actually addressed the possibility of Endeavor purchasing WWE, although he declined to speak about any specifics. He did say that Endeavor had worked hard at paying down the company’s debts, which is why he seemed to cast doubts on interest in purchasing WWE.
“We are not going to leverage ourselves up as we have done a good job deleveraging,” Emanuel said. “We are going to continue deleverage. As it relates to the WWE, it’s an unbelievable product. Vince [McMahon] is an unbelievable creative great business.
“We have had a long-standing relationship with them over two decades. We’re doing, as I indicated, on location business with them and data streaming business with them. So, it’s business is really valuable, but we are not going to do anything as it relates to kind of changing our leverage position right now.”
Obviously those plans changed with Endeavor now owning a majority share in WWE to add the pro wrestling company to a growing portfolio alongside the UFC.