Vince McMahon called Monday “a great day” as his iconic company announced plans to sell a controlling stake to Endeavor in a merger with professional wrestling rival UFC. “Things have to evolve. A family business has to evolve, for all the right reasons. And this is the right business decision, and it’s the right family decision,” he said in an interview today on CNBC.
McMahon’s father founded WWE in 1953 and colorful Vince McMahon has been its public face for decades, growing it into an international powerhouse. But the majority owner of WWE stepped down as CEO, then from the board in 2022 amid a scandal over payments to hush up sexual encounters. He returned as a director last year to explore strategic alternatives, i.e. a sale. WWE had to restate some of its earnings to incorporate the payments. It launched then closed an internal investigation. Last week, McMahon agreed to pay the company more than $17 million to reimburse costs of the probe.
Asked what he thought the last year meant for his legacy, he said, “I’m not sure about the legacy stuff. I’m not going to write it, so I don’t know. … Let me just say, I’ve made mistakes both personally and professionally through my 50-year career. I have owned up to every single one of them and then moved on.”
The all-stock deal confirmed early Monday will see Endeavor’s UFC and WWE merged to create a new standalone company, as yet unnamed, worth about $21 billion. Endeavor shareholders will own 51% and WWE shareholders 49%. An 11-member board will be split 6 directors to 5, Endeavor-WWE.
The deal values WWE at about $9.3 billion, well above its market cap (of $6.6 billion today). Endeavor chief executive Ari Emanuel will be CEO, McMahon executive chairman. WWE CEO Nick Khan will be president of the combined entity. UFC Dana White will continue as president of UFC.
Pressed on the price tag, Emanuel insisted it’s fair. “I will tell you why. We paid a little bit for a control premium. And with our cost cuts and their new deals coming up, which is right now. And cost savings that we think we can extract from the business, and [the] growth of the business, with all of our levers, whether it be international sales, domestic, sponsorship, gambling…all the things that we do,” he told CNBC. The parties expect $50 million-$100 million in annual cost synergies.
Emanuel said he’d been slammed for overpaying for IMG ($2.3 billion in 2013) and for UFC (majority stake for $4 billion in 2016, 100% control in 2021 in conjunction with Endeavor’s IPO). Both turned out to be great deals, he said.
And he reiterated that Endeavor stock has been undervalued as investors have had trouble valuing it’s 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 slated its annual spring event, WrestleMania, at LA’s SoFi Stadium, a location that enabled an expanded roster of stakeholders to experience the potency of WWE in person last weekend as the final bow was put on the transaction.
Meanwhile, current WWE rightsholders Fox Corp. and NBCUniversal are in an exclusive negotiating window, which began on April 1. The pro wrestling circuit has supplied Fox and USA Network with Raw and SmackDown telecasts year-round since the current contracts began in 2019. “Both partners will get a look at it, and we’ll listen to what they have to say,” Khan said.
NBCU’s Peacock has a separate deal for the streaming rights to WWE bouts, including last weekend’s WrestleMania, which set records for viewership as well as merchandising sales and sponsorship. Peacock subsumed 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 a “substantial amount” of premium subscriptions had been sold because of WWE content.
Shares of both Endeavor and WWE dipped today but were trending higher in after-market trading.
The post Vince McMahon Says “I’ve Made Mistakes” But “Owned Up To Every Single One” As WWE And UFC Finalize Merger appeared first on Deadline.