- Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment is in advanced talks to sell it to Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Group, parent of the UFC.
- The deal will combine the UFC and WWE into one publicly traded company.
- WWE has spent the past several months looking for a buyer.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. appears. Vince McMahon in the ring during WWE Monday Night Raw at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images
Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment is in advanced talks to sell it to Ari Emanuel’s parent company, Endeavor Group, according to people familiar with the matter.
A deal could be announced as soon as Monday. The UFC and WWE are expected to form a new publicly traded company as part of the agreement, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
Endeavor is slated to own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders will receive 49%, according to the People. They said the Endeavor deal gives WWE an enterprise value of $9.3 billion.
Emanuel is expected to serve as CEO of both Endeavor and the new company. Likewise, McMahon is expected to take over as CEO, while Mark Shapiro, President of Endeavor, will also serve in the same role in the new company. Dana White will remain the president of the UFC, while WWE CEO Nick Khan will serve as the president of the wrestling business.
This development comes during the same weekend that WWE is hosting its flagship live event, WrestleMania, in California. The company has spent the past several months looking for a buyer. McMahon returned to the company as president in January to oversee the operation. Shares of WWE are up more than 33% so far this year, giving it a market capitalization of more than $6.79 billion.
The deal would effectively end WWE’s decades-old status as a family-run business. McMahon’s father Founded WWE in its original incarnation during the mid-20th century, McMahon was the controlling shareholder in the company. McMahon bought the company from his father in 1982. Since then, the company has grown into a global phenomenon, absorbing stars like Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista, and John Cena.
McMahon, 77, retired from the company in July after a series of revelations that he had paid several women millions of dollars over the years to keep them quiet about alleged affairs and misconduct. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, became co-CEO alongside Khan. Paul Levesque, husband of Stephanie McMahon and wrestler better known as Triple H, took over creative duties from Vince McMahon.
When Vince McMahon returned in January, Stephanie McMahon resigned and Khan took over as CEO entirely. The elder McMahon recently locked in a two-year contract, according to A.J Securities deposit.
Khan has in recent weeks made the media rounds to discuss the potential sale. It was a strong sell-off, he told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Thursday, which has attracted many interested buyers.
WWE brings with it solid media and live action, along with decades of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, Mainly driven Through its billion dollar media unit.
The UFC has paid off for Endeavor. Last year, the MMA league helped sports business Endeavor bring in up to $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor had a market capitalization of about $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close. The Endeavor-WWE UFC deal is valued at more than $12 billion.
WWE, at least at a glance, would also fit in nicely with the cultures in Endeavor and the UFC. McMahon has a brash public persona, which apparently makes him a good match for Emmanuel and White, who are also known for their huge personalities.
Wyatt, like McMahon, is no stranger to scandal either. Earlier this year, a video surfaced showing the UFC boss slapping his wife during a public altercation at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico. White apologized.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC parent NBCUniversal, carries WWE events like WrestleMania.
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