- TKO targets growth across media rights, live events and sponsorship
- Combined global fanbase pegged at more than 1bn, reaching viewers in 180 countries
- Company to trade on NYSE
Sports and entertainment group Endeavor has closed the US$21 billion merger between the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), forming a new combined company called TKO Group Holdings.
The deal was announced in April, with UFC owner Endeavor taking a 51 per cent stake in TKO – previously referred to as ‘NewCo’ – with existing WWE shareholders controlling the reaming 49 per cent. At the time, Endeavor said the acquisition gave WWE an enterprise value of US$9.3 billion.
As previously announced, TKO is being led by Endeavor chief executive Ariel Emanuel, while Mark Shapiro, Endeavor’s president and chief operating officer, will hold the same role at the new company. Andrew Schleimer and Seth Krauss will serve as chief financial officer and chief legal officer, respectively.
In addition, Dana White has shifted from the role of president to chief executive of the UFC, and Lawrence Epstein remains the promotion’s senior executive vice president and chief operating officer. Nick Khan continues at WWE in the role of president.
Vince McMahon, previously WWE’s controlling shareholder who stepped down from the wrestling promotion last summer, returns as executive chairman on TKO’s board of directors, which consists of 11 members, including Emanuel, Shapiro and Khan.
Announcing the completion of the deal, Endeavor said the decision to bring together the UFC and WWE would create a new premium sports and entertainment company serving ‘more than one billion young and diverse fans’, reaching viewers in 180 countries and producing more than 350 annual live events.
Endeavor added that TKO, which will trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), plans to leverage Endeavor’s expertise in areas including domestic and international media rights, ticket sales and yield optimisation, event operations, global partnerships, licensing, and premium hospitality to drive revenue growth.
“The creation of TKO marks an exciting new chapter for UFC and WWE as leaders in global sports and entertainment,” said Emanuel.
“Given their continued connectivity to the Endeavor network, we are confident in our ability to accelerate their respective growth and unlock long-term sustainable value for shareholders. With UFC and WWE under one roof, we will provide unrivalled experiences for more than a billion passionate fans worldwide.”
McMahon added: “This is the culmination of a decades-long partnership between Endeavor and WWE across strategic initiatives including talent representation and media rights.
“Given our collaborative, trusted relationship and Endeavor’s incredible track record of success growing UFC, we believe WWE is optimally positioned for future growth and success as part of TKO.
“Our focus remains on delivering for our fans across the globe as we take the business to the next level alongside UFC and Endeavor.”
In an investor presentation back in April outlining the rationale for buying WWE, Endeavor described TKO as an opportunity to run a ‘pure-play IP ownership company operating in some of the most attractive parts’ of the sports and entertainment ecosystem. The chance to control two globally recognised combat sports properties was simply too big to ignore, with TKO valued at more than US$21 billion and expected to generate over US$1 billion in annual earnings.
Given WWE’s success, Endeavor is unlikely to usher in wholesale changes to the promotion’s operation but it has identified future growth opportunities for TKO. These include maximising media rights value, enhancing live events, expanding sponsorship opportunities, accelerating product licensing, developing new forms of content, and international expansion. There is also scope for cross-promotion.
Even before the UFC and WWE joined forces, the pair had a lot in common. Both have operated boldly and aggressively, helping to establish themselves as leading properties in their respective fields. Now attention will shift to what they can do under the same roof.