Endeavor is also parent to OpenBet

WWE merges with UFC parent Endeavor, reigniting sports betting thoughts

Reading time 2:23 min

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is merging with Endeavor Group, the parent company of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), resulting in a combined $21.4 billion sports entertainment giant. Given Endeavor’s ownership of sportsbook technology provider OpenBet, the transaction has reignited thoughts of WWE betting.

A new publicly traded company will house the UFC and WWE brands, with Endeavor taking a 51% controlling interest in the new firm. Existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% stake. The companies put the enterprise value of UFC at $12.1 billion and WWE's value at $9.3 billion.

The new business, which does not yet have a name, will be led by Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel. Vince McMahon, executive chairman at WWE, will serve in the same role at the new company. Dana White will continue as president of UFC and Nick Khan will be president at WWE.

“Together, we will be a $21+ billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people and an exciting growth opportunity,” McMahon said in a prepared statement Monday. McMahon’s WWE had reportedly been seeking a buyer for months, finding now a palatable partner in Endeavor’s UFC.

The merger follows a CNBC report last month that the WWE was in talks with Michigan and Colorado regulators to allow people to wager on the outcome of pro wrestling matches – despite these being scripted entertainment products.

Colorado officials quickly dismissed the news, noting the state’s Division of Gaming was not involved in any talks on the matter. For their part, Michigan Gaming Control Board officials confirmed that a third-party consultant had approached them more than a year ago for a proposal to add WWE events, but said that the conversations ended there.

However, efforts to add betting on WWE might be back on the table, as UFC wagering is a popular market and Endeavor also owns OpenBet, a sports betting content, platform and service provider to sportsbooks including giants DraftKings and FanDuel.

For now, that scenario remains largely speculative. If betting were to be added to WWE, the original CNBC report said the results of the matches would be locked down with the accounting firm of EY (Ernst & Young). This is the same method awards shows use to keep winners a secret, and some states allow betting on the Oscars.

The merger and Endeavor’s existing ties to sports betting have prompted many to believe the newly formed company could double down in its efforts to bring legal wagering to WWE. So far, however, officials for the new business said the focus of the company will be to maximize the value of combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster their brands.

The deal between Endeavor and WWE catapults WWE into a new era, after functioning as a family-run business for decades. McMahon purchased the brand from his father in 1982, and took the regional wrestling business to a national audience with the likes of wrestling stars such as Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The transaction, which was approved by the boards of Endeavor and WWE, is targeted to close in the second half of the year. It still needs regulatory approval. Whether WWE’s new era will include betting remains to be seen.

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