UFC Sold to WME-IMG-Led Buyers for $4 Billion (Updated)

UFC president Dana White says fans shouldn’t worry

UPDATED 7/11/16 at 6:13 a.m.:

WME-IMG announced its acquisition of UFC on Monday, with Silver Lake Partners and KKR will joining as new strategic investors, along with MSD Capital, L.P. and MSD Partners, L.P. which will provide preferred equity financing.

“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. “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.”

Dana White will continue to serve as president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“No other sport compares to UFC,” White said in a statement. “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.”

Once the deal closes, chairman and CEO of the UFC, Lorenzo Fertitta, will step down from day-to-day operations, but will retain a passive minority in the organization, along with Frank Fertitta III.

“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,” Lorenzo said. “Most importantly, our new owners share the same vision and passion for this organization and its athletes.”

PREVIOUSLY:

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will announce as soon as Monday that it has sold itself to buyers led by WME-IMG for about $4 billion, according to reports. It would be the most expensive transaction for an organization in the history of sports, ESPN said.

League President Dana White, reached by ESPN on Sunday night, called the sale bittersweet. He had denied that the organization was for sale since an ESPN report two months ago. Brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the 23-year-old organization for $2 million 16 years ago.

Citing people with knowledge of the deal, the New York Times reported Sunday that the backers include private equity companies Silver Lake, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and billionaire Michael S. Dell’s investment firm.

UFC is a rich mine of content, offering more than 2,000 hours of programming each year, the paper said.

The league’s fights are shown in more than 156 countries and across the United States, and viewership skews heavily toward millennials, the Times noted. (CM Punk, pictured, is set to debut soon.)

White told ESPN that fans should not be worried about the change in ownership.

“Exact opposite,” White said. “Sport is going to the next level.”

“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. “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.”