Endeavor, the Hollywood talent giant that owns the art fair and media company Frieze, has acquired World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in a $9.3bn deal that will see the wrestling promotion firm join forces with another Endeavor-owned combat sports company in a merger worth more than $21bn.
Endeavor announced this week it has signed a deal to form a new sports and entertainment company by acquiring WWE and merging it with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a mixed martial arts company Endeavor acquired in 2016. Last year, the two companies collectively made $2.4b in revenue and have enjoyed a 10% annual revenue growth rate since 2019, according to Endeavor.
After the deal closes, Endeavor will hold a 51% controlling stake in the new company, while WWE’s shareholders will hold 49%. The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year, according to Endeavor.
The new company—which has not been named but intends to trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol “TKO”, which is also an abbreviation for the fight term “technical knockout”—will be led by Endeavor boss and art collector Ari Emanuel as chief executive, while WWE's Vince McMahon will serve as the board’s executive chairman.
It’s the latest high-profile acquisition by Endeavor, which first purchased a 70% stake in Frieze in 2016, the same year the company purchased shares in UFC (last year, Endeavor bought out UFC). Since Endeavor acquired Frieze, the art media company has expanded with new fairs in Los Angeles (where Endeavor is based) and Seoul.
“I wanted the company Endeavor to be a cultural ambassador—if you’re going to be an ambassador for culture, the centre of that is art,” Emanuel told Vanity Fair last year, adding that the importance of art in his industry is something that can’t be measured by economic profits and losses alone.
Frieze announced in 2020 that Simon Fox, a former British media executive, would take over as the firm’s first chief executive officer. Along with its four international art fairs, Frieze’s business includes media production, music performances and an art publication.
In 2021, Endeavor went public with an initial public offering on the NYSE. Endeavor made headlines in 2019 after the company returned a $400m investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund over the killing of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.