Following months of speculation, a sale of WWE appears imminent. Endeavor, the parent company of UFC, has nearly finalized a deal to acquire WWE at a valuation of $9.3 billion, CNBC reported Sunday afternoon.
The deal will see Endeavor create a new, publicly traded company that will run both UFC and WWE. Endeavor/UFC would take a 51% ownership stake with WWE shareholders retaining 49% of the new company.
WWE executive chairman and long-time owner Vince McMahon, the largest current shareholder of WWE, will remain chairman of the WWE portion of the new company sitting only behind Endeavor founder and CEO Ari Emanuel. WWE CEO Nick Khan is expected to remain president of wrestling operations, while Dana White will continue to over UFC as its president.
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“This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed,” Emanuel said in a press release. “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.”
McMahon stepped away from WWE in July 2022 after payoffs of several allegations of sexual misconduct came to light. On March 23, he paid WWE back $17.4 million as reimbursement for expenses related to an extended investigation into the allegations.
Even after resigning as chairman and CEO, McMahon remained WWE’s largest shareholder. Unsurprising to many, he forced his way back into his chairman role in January. In the wake of that move, his daughter Stephanie McMahon, the interim chairman and co-CEO along with Khan, resigned from her position.
With a sudden desire to sell the company along with media rights negotiations about to open for WWE, McMahon announced his return in a press release as such: “The only way for WWE to fully capitalize on this opportunity is for me to return as Executive Chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”
Endeavor acquired controlling interest in UFC in 2016. In 2021, the company bought out the remaining shareholders to take 100% control of the world’s largest mixed martial arts brand.
UFC began a five-year deal in 2019 with ESPN, which acquired all of its media rights and became the exclusive home of its pay-per-views. That deal comes up at the end of 2023, in close proximity to when WWE’s television rights deals with NBCUniversal and Fox expire. WWE also signed a five-year deal in 2021 with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which now hosts its network content, including live events, until 2026.
Endeavor’s purchase of WWE could be announced as soon as Monday, according to CNBC. That would come one day after WWE concludes the second night of it’s massive annual WrestleMania event, which is expected to be the most-attended and largest-grossing even of its kind in history.