Just two days after hosting the biggest event in history, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been sold to a group led by WME-IMG for a reported $4 billion, plus or minus a few hundred million.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to represent UFC and a number of its remarkable athletes,” said WME | IMG Co-CEOs Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell in Monday’s press release. “It’s been exciting to watch the organization’s incredible growth over the last decade under the leadership of the Fertitta brothers, Dana White and their dedicated team. We’re now committed to pursuing new opportunities for UFC and its talented athletes to ensure the sport’s continued growth and success on a global scale.”
Silver Lake Partners and KKR will join WME-IMG as new strategic investors, along with MSD Capital, L.P. and MSD Partners, L.P. which will provide preferred equity financing.
For UFC fans, here is how this move will change the product they’ve have grown accustomed to since Lorenzo Fertitta (pictured) and brother Frank Feritta shelled out just $2 million in 2001 to purchase the UFC, with UFC president Dana White acting as the company’s front man. Lorenzo Fertitta will step down from day-to-day operations, Frank Fertitta was always more of a silent owner, however both will retain a “passive minority interest” in the planet’s premier mixed martial arts promotion.
White’s duties remain the exact same.
“We’re confident that the new ownership team of WME | IMG, with whom we’ve built a strong relationship over the last several years, is committed to accelerating UFC’s global growth. Most importantly, our new owners share the same vision and passion for this organization and its athletes,” Lorenzo Fertitta stated.
Zuffa, LLC, the parent company of the UFC, was owned by Lorenzo (40.5%) and Frank Fertitta (40.5%), Flash Entertainment (10%) and White (9%). It was not announced how this acquisition will affect Flash Entertainment. In addition, it is unknown if White received a bump in his stake of the company or if he cashed out some money in exchange for a smaller percentage of the UFC.
Lorenzo Fertitta recently told CNN that the company grossed about $600 million in revenue in 2015. Saturday’s historic UFC 200 extravaganza set a live-gate record of $10.7 million at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“No other sport compares to UFC,” remarked Dana White, UFC’s President who will continue in that role. “Our goal has always been to put on the biggest and the best fights for our fans, and to make this the biggest sport in the world. I’m looking forward to working with WME-IMG to continue to take this sport to the next level.”