Professional wrestling giant WWE and mixed martial arts promotion UFC will no longer fight each other – they are united in a new company. This new company will be controlled by the Hollywood mega-agency Endeavour, which announced the deal on Monday.
Once the deal closes (which is expected in the second half), Endeavor will hold a 51% majority stake, while WWE shareholders will retain a 49% stake. This new company – controlling industry leaders in real and simulated fighting – will be valued at more than $21 billion, according to Endeavour, with WWE valued at $9.3 billion and UFC at $12.1 billion. billions of dollars.
The ad started leaking on Sunday, with CNBC reports the news for the first time. It happened just before the second night of WWE’s biggest event of the year, WrestleMania, which took place last Saturday and Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. WWE’s stay in the region extends through Monday night with their flagship TV show Raw live from the Crypto.com Arena.
The direction of the new company – and the scandals
The deal keeps spots for WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and UFC President Dana White, despite recent controversy involving each of them. For McMahon, it was the public revelation last year multiple silent payments he made to different women and a subsequent investigation. McMahon retired from WWE following the publicized payments, but returned as chairman of the company’s board of directors earlier this year as the company pursued a sale.
Yet the company would have been sold even without this shakeup, McMahon told CNBC in an interview recorded Sunday and released Monday. He also acknowledged the scandal when asked how it might affect his legacy.
“Let me say that I’ve made mistakes, obviously – both personally and professionally – in my 50-year career. I’ve recognized every single one of them, and then moved on” , McMahon said.
He would have reimbursed WWE for silent money payments last month. He’s also taken on an increased role in the company’s creative direction since his return, but he told CNBC he won’t be as “in the weeds” as he has been in the past.
White’s recent scandal was caught on video slapping his wife on New Year’s Eve. It was hard to imagine a worse time, coming shortly before the launch of White’s new fight promotion power strokewhere the contestants slap each other as hard as they can – and an accompanying reality show.
Leaders of the new company include Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel as CEO, McMahon as Chairman of the Board, and Mark Shapiro as President and COO of Endeavor and the new company. White will continue as UFC president, while Nick Khan will transition from WWE CEO to a continuing role as corporate president.
But while Vince McMahon maintains his position, the deal means that for the first time, WWE will no longer be a family-controlled operation. Vince’s grandfather, Jess McMahon, promoted wrestling, as did Vince’s father. But Vince McMahon is the one who has taken the fight national, dramatically changing what was once a regional business run by different territories. His daughter Stephanie was previously an executive for the company, and his son-in-law Paul Levesque (better known as professional wrestler Triple H) is currently its chief content officer.
It remains to be seen how Lévesque or any other member of the McMahon family will be involved in the regime of the new company.
Endeavor beat the Saudis, NBCUniversal
Speculation had been high that NBCUniversal could buy WWE as it went on sale. That’s because they’ve already struck a multi-billion dollar deal that includes most of the rights to most WWE content, which is available through its Peacock streaming service – a purchase could have paid for itself. in TV rights fees that NBCUniversal would save. But NBCUniversal has never publicly expressed interest in the acquisition, and the entertainment industry’s shift toward cost-cutting has made that move less likely. Now, Peacock may not maintain the coveted rights deal in the future. There is also speculation that WWE could fire its main pay-per-view shows, strike a deal with ESPN+ similar to the one the UFC currently has, or both.
WWE has also been in business with Saudi Arabia, regularly putting on big shows in the country despite controversy surrounding its regime. The national government-owned investment fund was the other biggest buyer reportedly interested in acquiring WWE, which McMahon acknowledged in the CNBC interview. Endeavor had previously divested itself of its own involvement in the Saudi investment fund in 2019, so the future of the new company’s business with the Saudi government – particularly after the current long-term contract expires – we’ll see.
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