Seen as a likely buyer since WWE went on sale, Endeavor plans to combine WWE with UFC as a new publicly traded company, according to a person familiar with the deal who was given anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
CNBC first reported the news Sunday, writing that the deal would give Endeavor 51% of the new company, with WWE shareholders retaining 49%. Initial reports indicate the deal values WWE at roughly $9.3 billion and UFC at roughly $12 billion.
WWE has been on the market for most of this year, retaining Raine Group to explore its options. After resigning in June, former CEO Vince McMahon returned to the company in January as the board’s executive chairman while the company planned “to undertake a review of its strategic alternatives with the goal being to maximize value for all WWE shareholders.” Its stock has risen by roughly a third since then, with a market cap of $6.79 billion.
The McMahon family’s ties to wrestling date back to the 1950s, when the Capitol Wrestling Corporation was produced. WWE just recently announced a new employment agreement for McMahon. The contract would pay him up to $7.6 million this year in cash and stock, and includes a multi-million-dollar bonus if he leaves the company after it is sold. CNBC reported that McMahon is expected to be executive chairman of the new company, with Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel serving as CEO for the combined UFC and WWE outfit as well.
Endeavor acquired UFC for $4 billion in 2016, before going public itself in 2021. UFC is part of Endeavor’s “owned sports properties” segment, alongside smaller assets like Euroleague Basketball and PBR. While Endeavor doesn’t specifically break out UFC’s numbers, the whole segment reported $1.33 billion in revenue in 2022, up from $1.11 in 2021. WWE pulled in $1.29 billion in revenue last year.
After building robust live events businesses, both UFC and WWE have cashed in on streaming brands’ demands for sports rights in recent years. ESPN inked UFC shows in a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in 2018, while WWE sold its WWE Network to NBCUniversal for a reported $1 billion.
The productions also share some in-front-of-camera DNA, with stars like Ken Shamrock, Brock Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey entertaining both sets of audiences at different times
WWE is holding its biggest event—WrestleMania—in California this weekend.
Endeavor and WWE did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.
(This story was updated in the first two paragraphs and to add the fifth and sixth paragraphs.)