Cona Group Holdings World Wrestling Entertainment went public on Monday, revealing a definitive agreement to form a new, publicly listed partnership of two “iconic, complementary” sports groups and entertainment brands: UFC and WWE. The company will have a 51 percent controlling interest in the new company, with existing WWE partners holding a 49 percent interest.
The new company will be led by CEO Ari Emanuel as CEO, who will also fulfill the same role in the rest of the business, WWE executive chairman Vince McMahon as executive chairman and Mark Shapiro as president and chief operating officer of both efforts and the new company. Dana White will remain in the role of UFC president, with WWE CEO Nick Khan holding the same president title as White but in WWE. The board of directors of the new firm will consist of 11 members who will be named at a later date, with six appointed by Enneavor and five appointed by WWE.
The deal is expected to close in the middle of the year. “Together, UFC and WWE will have global, scale-heavy and omnichannel distribution,” the companies said. “On a combined fiscal year 2022 basis, the UFC and WWE achieved revenue of $2.4 billion and a 10 percent annual revenue increase from 2019.”
The companies generated an estimated $50 million in annual cost synergies. The companies said they were targeted by the company’s “back leveraging efforts and robust infrastructure.” “Efforts also mean growth across revenue areas, including media and domestic and international rights, ticket sales and optimization, event operations, sponsorship, licensing and hospitality premium yield.”
In this context, the company “touted the success of the UFC,” including growing commercial opportunities, which more than 2x adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) growth since its acquisition in late 2016.
The company’s new public trading ticker symbol will be TKO, which is short for “technical knockout” sports.
“This is a rare opportunity to create a global gaming and entertainment platform built where the industry is leading,” said Emanuel. “For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation, and we are confident that the effort will bring significant value to the delivery partners of UFC and WWE together.”
Added McMahon: “The incredible work that Ari and Enitere have done to grow the UFC brand – nearly doubling its revenue over the past seven years – and we’ve already had immense success partnering with the team on several ventures; I believe that this is without a doubt the best outcome for our partners and other stakeholders.
He also highlighted: “Together, we will be more than a billion $21-games and games hosted with the collective imagination of more than a billion people and the opportunity for exciting growth. The new company will be well-positioned to increase the value of our combined media rights, empower monetization, develop new content formats and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further strengthen our strong brand portfolio.”
The price tags underlying the deal will attract investor attention. The venture puts a value of $12.1 billion on the UFC and $9.3 billion on the WWE. The deal also puts the price at around $106 per share in WWE, before any post-closing dividends. UFC and WWE will contribute new money to the company, so that it will contain about $150 million.
The matter was unanimously approved by both companies’ boards of directors. The deal is still subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.