World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon (L) and wrestler Triple H appear in the ring during WWE Monday Night Raw at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 24, 2009
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Vince McMahon World Wrestling Entertainment agreed to merge with the UFC to form a new, publicly traded company under UFC control Endeavor GroupThe companies announced Monday morning.
Endeavor will own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders will receive the remaining 49%, according to the terms of the agreement. The deal values WWE at $9.3 billion and UFC-owned Endeavor at $12.1 billion, the companies said in a press release.
WWE shares were down in premarket trading, while Endeavor shares were higher.
The companies said Ari Emanuel would take over as CEO of both Endeavor and the new company. Similarly, McMahon will be the Executive Chairman, while Endeavor President and COO Mark Shapiro will also serve in the same positions in the new company. Dana White will remain president of the UFC, and WWE CEO Nick Khan will remain as president of the wrestling business.
The Board of Directors will consist of 11 people, with six appointed by Endeavor and five appointed by WWE. The name of the merged company will be announced at a later date.
Ari Emanuel speaks on stage during the 2017 LACMA Art + Film Gala Honors Presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
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The announcement confirmed an earlier CNBC report. It also came a day after WWE wrapped up 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% this year as of Friday’s closing bell, giving it a market value of more than $6.79 billion.
The agreement will bring together two of the largest sports entertainment brands in the world. Despite the notable differences — the WWE features scripted matches and opera-like storylines, while the UFC features brutal mixed martial arts fighting — the organizations appear to be well suited in terms of content and culture. Several UFC fighters, including Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar, have already wrestled in WWE.
UFC champion and superstar Conor McGregor hailed news of the pending deal Sunday night. “Unbelievable. What power!” V said One tweetfollowed up with another tweet featuring a photo of him waving UFC and WWE championship belts.
The merger would also conclude WWE’s decades-long run as a family business. McMahon’s father founded WWE in its original incarnation during the mid-20th century. McMahon, who bought the company from his father in 1982, is the controlling shareholder. Over the past four decades, WWE has grown into a global phenomenon, spawning superstars 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.
Dana White appears at the UFC 282 post-fight press conference on December 10, 2022, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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After Vince McMahon’s return in January, Stephanie McMahon resigned and Khan took over as CEO entirely. According to a securities filing, the elder McMahon recently locked in a two-year employment contract.
Khan has in recent weeks made the media rounds to discuss the potential sale. It was a solid operation, he told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan Thursday. It has attracted many interested buyers.
WWE offers Endeavor shareholders powerful media and live business events, as well as decades of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, primarily driven by its $1 billion media unit.
Meanwhile, the UFC paid off Endeavor. Last year, the MMA League helped the parent company’s sports business generate $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor had a market capitalization of about $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close.
WWE also fits in well with the cultures of Endeavor and the UFC, which also reflects the tough styles of their leaders. McMahon, Emmanuel, and Wyatt are famous for their outsized personalities, and they each have their share of loyal allies and harsh critics.
White is no stranger to scandal. 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. I apologize later.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC parent NBCUniversal, carries WWE events like WrestleMania.