Vince McMahon called Monday “a great day” as his iconic company announced plans to sell Endeavor a controlling stake in a merger with professional wrestling rival UFC. “Things have to evolve. The family business has to evolve for all the right reasons. And it’s the right business decision, and it’s the right family decision,” he said in an interview on CNBC today.
McMahon’s father founded WWE in 1953 and the colorful Vince McMahon has been its public face for decades, developing it into an international powerhouse. But WWE’s majority owner stepped down as CEO, then in 2022, from the board amid a scandal over payments to withhold sexual encounters. He returned as a director last year to explore the strategic option, ie sale. WWE had to restate some of its earnings to accommodate the payments. It launched and then closed an internal investigation. Last week, McMahon agreed to pay more than $17 million to the company to reimburse the cost of the investigation.
Asked what the last year holds for his legacy, he said, “I am not sure about the legacy. I won’t write it, so I don’t know. … Let me just say, I have made mistakes both personally and professionally in my 50 year career. I own every single one of them and then moved on.
The all-stock deal confirmed earlier Monday will merge Endeavor’s UFC and WWE to form a new standalone company, an as-yet undisclosed amount, valued at about $21 billion. Endeavor shareholders will own 51% and WWE shareholders will own 49%. An 11-member board will be divided into 6 directors versus 5, Endeavor-WWE.
The deal values WWE at around $9.3 billion, which is much higher than its market cap ($6.6 billion today). Endeavor Chief Executive Ari Emanuel will be CEO, McMahon acting chairman. WWE CEO Nick Khan will be the chairman of the combined entity. UFC Dana White will continue as the chairman of the UFC.
Pressed on the price tag, Emanuel insists it’s reasonable. “I’ll tell you why. We paid a little bit for the control premium. And our cost reductions and their new deals coming in, which is now. And the cost savings that we think we can extract from the business , And [the] The growth of the business, with all our levers, whether it’s international sales, domestic, sponsorship, gambling… all the things we do,” he told CNBC. The parties expect $50 million-$100 million annual cost synergies. .
Emanuel said he was slammed for overpaying for IMG ($2.3 billion in 2013) and UFC (majority stake for $4 billion in 2016, 100% control in conjunction with Endeavour’s IPO in 2021) . Both turned out to be great deals, he said.
And he reiterated that the reason Endeavor stock is undervalued is because investors have had trouble valuing its various assets under one umbrella.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2023 pending regulatory approval.
In an interview with Deadline, Khan described the sale process as “robust”, with interest from multiple parties. It was “no accident” WWE held its annual spring event, WrestleMania, at LA’s SoFi Stadium, a venue that enabled an expanded roster of stakeholders to experience the power of WWE this past weekend as it took its final bow. The transaction was placed on hold.
Meanwhile, current WWE rights holders Fox Corp and NBCUniversal are in an exclusive negotiating window, which began on April 1. Pro Wrestling Circuit has supplied to Fox and USA Network Raw And smack down The current contract airs year-round since it began in 2019. “Both partners will have a look at it, and we’ll hear what they have to say,” Khan said.
NBCU’s Peacock has a separate deal for the streaming rights to WWE matches, including last weekend’s WrestleMania, which set records for viewership as well as merchandise sales and sponsorships. Peacock will join the former stand-alone WWE Network in 2021 in a $1 billion deal, offering its programming to premium subscribers. Khan declined to offer any specific Peacock viewing metrics, but said that a “substantial amount” of premium subscriptions were sold because of the WWE content.
Shares of both Endeavor and WWE dipped today but were trading higher in after-market trading.