Reports: UFC Sale Nearly Finalized After Multiple Bids for Full Ownership Exceed $4 Billion

By Tristen Critchfield Jun 16, 2016
The sale of the Ultimate Fighting Championship could be finalized soon, according to reports from both FloCombat.com and ESPN.com.

Two groups have reportedly proposed offers in the $4.1 billion range: one a joint bid by William Morris Endeavor Agency and The Dalian Wanda Group, and the other from China Media Capital, that would yield 100 percent control of the promotion.

The UFC used investment bank Goldman Sachs to facilitate the bids, but the deal is not expected to be formally announced until after UFC 200 on July 9 even if it is completed in the coming days. FloCombat reports that the largest bid is expected to come from the William Morris Endeavor Agency, which represents artists in various entertainment industries, and The Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate which is also the world’s largest cinema chain operator.

According to ESPN, WME co-chairman Ari Emanuel has been asking investors to contribute $25 million to $50 million apiece. The Kraft Group, which owns the NFL’s New England Patriots, is reportedly one of the willing investors on that end. That WME-IMG and Dalian Wanda bid is also believed to include China-based TenCent Holdings, one of the largest internet companies in the world.

A 100 percent sale of the company would mean that Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, Dana White, Flash Entertainment and all other minority parties would relinquish ownership. However, FloCombat indicates that some of the top bidders are interested in keeping White, the current UFC president, around in a similar promotional role and are willing to give him ownership shares in hopes of persuading him to stay.

It is also unlikely that much of the current day-to-day operations in the UFC would change once a new ownership group assumes control, at least in terms of public perception. Key staff members in the production and public relations departments, as well as matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, would likely remain, according to FloCombat.

White offered no comment on the potential sale when reached by ESPN on Thursday.

White denied the UFC was for sale during an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” last month.

“We’re not up for sale,” he said. “We’re always working on deals and our expansion globally. I’ve been saying since this thing came out, on, we’re not for sale, but let me tell you what. If somebody shows up with $4 billion, we can talk. We can definitely talk.”

Zuffa acquired the UFC from Semaphore Entertainment in 2001 for $2 million dollars. Lorenzo Fertitta told CNN in December that the company earned approximately $600 million in gross revenue in 2015.

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