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UFC-WWE Merger Nears Completion With Murky Outlook, Potential Layoffs

  • The formation of TKO Group Holdings Inc. — controlled by Endeavor — is slated to be done in September.
  • Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel warned “planning is underway to begin maximizing revenue and cost synergies immediately upon closing.”
Charles Oliveira (red gloves) and Islam Makhachev (blue gloves) during UFC 280.
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The $9.3 billion merger between Endeavor-owned UFC and WWE to create a separate, publicly traded company is nearing completion, but is doing so with a perhaps murky outlook, and some big names will help guide the new entity.

The formation of TKO Group Holdings Inc. — combining WWE and UFC and majority controlled by Endeavor — is slated to be done in mid-to-late September. As deal closing approaches and both entities enjoy robust popularity among their fans, the deal carries sizable uncertainty.

Already, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel warned in an earnings call with analysts that “planning is underway to begin maximizing revenue and cost synergies immediately upon closing” — language that typically means layoffs

A registration statement filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission further outlined a series of potential risks in the deal, including a possibility of higher-than-expected expenses of combining the businesses, and lower-than-hoped benefits.

Further risk derives from WWE executive chairman Vince McMahon, recently served with a federal grand jury subpoena amid a sexual misconduct probe.

A reshaped board of directors for TKO signals the companies’ desire to navigate the choppy waters. In addition to expected names like Emanuel, McMahon, Endeavor president Mark Shapiro, and WWE CEO Nick Khan, the new board also includes Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin and Jonathan Kraft, president of New England Patriots and Revolution parent the Kraft Group.

UFC president Dana White and WWE chief content officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque were notable omissions from the board list.

WWE TV Outlook

A key element determining the initial success of the new venture will be the outcome of ongoing media rights negotiations of WWE’s Raw and SmackDown, though WWE argues it’s negotiating there from a position of strength.

“We think it’s a very strong landscape for products that register,” Khan said.

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