The hotly anticipated merger between Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Wrestling Entertainment is official.
TKO Group Holdings, the new $21.4-billion fighting sports and entertainment powerhouse, began trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
The newly-combined company, TKO, is led by Endeavor Chief Executive Ari Emanuel. Pro wrestling mogul Vince McMahon will serve the new company as executive chairman, the same title he held at WWE. UFC’s president Dana White is now its chief executive.
Beverly Hills-based Endeavor, which also owns Hollywood talent agency WME, holds a 51% controlling stake in the new company. WWE shareholders have a 49% interest.
“The creation of TKO marks an exciting new chapter for UFC and WWE as leaders in global sports and entertainment,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Given their continued connectivity to the Endeavor network, we are confident in our ability to accelerate their respective growth and unlock long-term sustainable value for shareholders.”
“Given our collaborative, trusted relationship and Endeavor’s incredible track record of success growing UFC, we believe WWE is optimally positioned for future growth and success as part of TKO,” McMahon said in the statement. “Our focus remains on delivering for our fans across the globe as we take the business to the next level alongside UFC and Endeavor.”
The colossal deal comes after a series of scandals rocked WWE.
In July of last year, McMahon, 78, stepped down from the company he built into a global brand following reports that he paid millions in hush money to multiple women who alleged sexual harassment. The allegations sparked investigations by the Justice Department and the SEC.
McMahon returned as executive chairman, and WWE announced in January that it was exploring a sale of the company.
Federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant and served a federal grand jury subpoena to McMahon in July, according to a regulatory filing.
“I have always denied any intentional wrongdoing and continue to do so. I am confident that the government’s investigation will be resolved without any findings of wrongdoing,” he said in statement.
Endeavor in 2016 bought a majority stake in UFC, the popular mixed martial arts league that gained a loyal audience and attracted controversy because of its violence. Endeavor took full ownership of UFC in 2021.
Adding WWE to its growing portfolio of talent, sports, fashion, art and other ventures, Endeavor is betting on the staying power of live events to fuel growth.
WWE is a significant provider of live TV programming, which has become more valuable to networks as viewers have shifted to streaming video for scripted movies and series.
WWE has media rights deals with NBCUniversal, which airs “Monday Night Raw,” and Fox Corp., which carries “Friday Night Smackdown” on its broadcast network. The deals expire at the end of 2024.
© 2023 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.