TKO, the newly merged UFC-WWE, aspires to grow beyond fighting


Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Wrestling Entertainment executives decided to name their new publicly traded company TKO to honor the companies’ expertise in fighting, but they have broader aspirations than just owning combat sports.

TKO began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, culminating a merger of two live-entertainment juggernauts that was announced in April. The combined company has 51% ownership by Endeavor group Holdings which includes UFC, Hollywood talent agency WME and WWE shareholders. Shapiro said that the first 18 months will be spent integrating UFC with WWE. That includes eventually going to market together for international media rights and bringing together the company’s production efforts and back offices, Shapiro said.

After that, TKO plans to swing into acquisition mode to grow the company, he said.

“We will ultimately be in the marketplace looking for other sports properties that we can bolt onto the flywheel enhanced by Endeavor,” Shapiro said, adding the company has a strong desire to expand internationally.

Endeavor also owns Professional Bull Riders and two tennis tournaments — the Mutua Madrid Open and the Miami Open. Endeavor represents professional athletes via WME and has expertise in media rights negotiations, product licensing, and enhancing live event fees to increase venue fees. Shapiro envisions new direct-to consumer options for TKO. Shapiro stated that other streaming entities had already expressed an interest in bidding for the rights once the current deal expires.

In coming months, TKO executive will also negotiate new deals with traditional pay TV for WWE Raw and SmackDown. NBCUniversal owns these rights.

Who is running TKO?

Vince MacMahon is the executive chair of TKO. Ari Emanuel, 78, serves as the CEO. Shapiro clarified who would be the leader of the company. Vince will have a part to play. He has experience and influence. He understands that Ari is the CEO. This is not shared. “

McMahon, who has been running WWE for more than 40 year, has earned a strong reputation both as a WWE personality and behind the scene. Recent legal problems have also plagued him. According to a filing from a few weeks ago, federal agents served McMahon with a subpoena by a federal grand juror on July 17 in response to allegations of sexual misconduct. No charges have been brought in the investigation.

Shapiro noted Emanuel has already proven he can run a company along side a sports league co-founder with a big personality and checkered past. Dana White has faced a number controversies, including the slapping of his wife on a video. He still remained in his position despite this. Hurts me and my employees. Hurts my employees. White said at a media conference earlier this year, “It doesn’t hurt me.” No, I do not need to reflect. … I’m the owner of this. “I’m telling that you’re wrong. Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal which owns CNBC.

WATCH Vince McMahon explain why he sold WWE.