There have been a lot of circulating reports over the past couple months that Zuffa LLC and the Fertitta brothers have been in talks to sell the UFC to other parties. UFC had been categorically shutting those reports down, but on Monday a formal announcement was made that the company has been sold for $4 billion.
Partnering up for the deal is talent agency WME-IMG and Silver Lake Partners, their owner, along with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and MSD Capital, an investment firm owned by Michael Dell. They will take over the operations of the company. In a statement, WME-IMG co-CEO’s Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell said the following:
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to represent UFC and a number of its remarkable athletes. 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.”
Over the past couple months, UFC president Dana White had been adamant that the company was not for sale, despite reports to the contrary that surfaced from credible sources. The sale story again got traction Sunday evening, and when ESPN reached him for comment White said that the sale is bittersweet. He added that fans should not be concerned about the change in ownership, however, and felt that the sport would “go to the next level.” White will be staying with the promotion and will have a stake in the new deal as well to assist in the transition to new ownership.
Lorenzo Fertitta will be stepping down as a part of the deal. He and his brother will continue to retain a minority interest in the promotion, however. Fertitta also gave a statement regarding the sale.
“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.”
The Fertitta brothers bought UFC in 2000 for $2 million. In 2015, the promotion took in somewhere around $600 million, and the $4 billion sale price is approximately seven times the gross revenue of the promotion. UFC makes a majority of its revenue on pay per view, but they also have a deal with FOX Sports. When the promotion seeks to renew its television deal in 2018, experts project that deal to be worth $200 million per year if the promotion continues on its upward trajectory.
The $4 billion deal stands to be the most expensive sports transaction in history.
Information from ESPN.com was used in this piece.