Endeavor & World Wrestling Entertainment strike deal to create $21bn ‘entertainment powerhouse’

Vince McMahon

LA-based talent group Endeavor has agreed to buy World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as part of a deal to create a $21bn “live sports and entertainment powerhouse”.

Endeavor and WWE said they had struck a ‘definitive agreement’ to create an as-yet unnamed new company that will house WWE and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the latter acquired by the talent firm in 2016.

Endeavor will hold a 51% controlling interest in the new company and existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% interest. The transaction values UFC at an enterprise value of $12.1bn and WWE at $9.3bn.

Exec line-up & talent shift

The sports giant will be led by Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, who will retain his current position, and Vince McMahon, who was executive chairman of the board.

Mark Shapiro will be president & COO of both Endeavor and the new company, with Dana White continuing in his role as president of UFC and Nick Khan serving as president of WWE.

UFC and WWE said they expect to cut $50m-$100m in synergies by using Endeavor’s back office. The talent firm said it would also generate “significant growth across revenue areas including domestic and international media rights,” as well as ticket sales and sponsorship.

The Board of Directors will consist of 11 members who will be appointed at a later date, six of whom will be appointed by Endeavor and five of whom by WWE. Shares in the latter have risen more than 30% in the past three months as takeover talk has increased.

The deal, which coes three months since WWE named Vince McMahon as executive chairman, marks the latest shift from Endeavor’s traditional line of business, which had centered on representing TV and film talent.

That approach led to Endeavor to start investing in production, but the move resulted in a long-running dispute with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which was concerned that the growing focus on production was not in the best interests of talent on its books.

Endeavor agreed to divest 80% of its scripted interests in 2021, ultimately selling Endeavor Content to South Korean media giant CJ ENM.

Emanuel said the WWE deal was a “rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed.”

McMahon added: “Together, we will be a $21+ billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people and an exciting growth opportunity.

“The new company will be well positioned to maximise the value of our combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetisation, develop new forms of content and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster our strong stable of brands.”

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the second half of 2023.

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