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Forty-three years after Vince McMahon founded the company now known as the WWE, and 70 years after his father entered the professional wrestling business, the McMahon family appears ready to give up control of their empire, closing in on a multibillion-dollar deal to sell the WWE to Endeavor, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
Assuming the deal is completed, the expectation is that the WWE would be merged with Endeavor’s UFC to create a new stand-alone public company, with the Ari Emanuel-led firm holding a majority stake. CNBC first reported the deal with Endeavor.
The companies are in advanced talks, and a deal may be announced this week. The WWE is holding its flagship Wrestlemania event in Los Angeles over the weekend.
The potential sale comes after McMahon’s January return to the sports entertainment company as executive chairman. In 2022, he retired from the company amid a misconduct investigation by the board of directors. McMahon was succeeded as CEO by his daughter Stephanie McMahon, and Nick Khan, CAA’s former co-head of TV who joined the WWE as president in 2020. In January, Stephanie left her role after her father’s return.
The board investigation into McMahon focused on allegations that he had sexual relationships with employees at the company and subsequently paid the women millions of dollars in severance packages, along with nondisclosure agreements. The company said in November that the investigation had concluded.
McMahon remained the majority shareholder of the WWE, leading to speculation even back then that he could pursue a sale.
Endeavor, the owner of mixed martial arts promoter UFC, talent mega-agency WME and other businesses like IMG and Professional Bull Riders, is a natural fit for the WWE. Since going public in 2021, Endeavor has sought to build out its owned sporting events business, mostly through UFC and to a lesser extent PBR. WWE superstars have also regularly moved over to film and TV, with some, like Dwayne Johnson (stage name “The Rock”) and John Cena finding mainstream appeal.
A combined UFC and WME would also be able to work together in some rights negotiations.
Endeavor CEO Emanuel “has not been shy about his interest in WWE since the minute Vince McMahon retired from the company,” LightShed analysts Brandon Ross, Richard Greenfield and Mark Kelley wrote in a Jan. 12 report. “He believes that he can unlock value for WWE in the same way he did for UFC, which he acquired ahead of their last renewal cycle, by negotiating rights deals and layering on significant sponsorship dollars.”
To that end, the deal under discussion is stock-focused, rather than cash-focused, with WWE shareholders rolling their equity into the new venture.
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