The UFC as we know it might be about to change forever. ESPN‘s Darrell Rovell is exclusively reporting that the UFC is about to be sold for a very generous figure — approximately $4.1 billion. Interestingly, this is a follow-up by Rovell, who first broke the story back in May.
From Rovell’s May article:
“At least four bidders are believed to have submitted bids for the organization, including WME/IMG, China Media Capital, The Blackstone Group and Dalian Wanda Group. The winning bid, should things proceed, is expected to be for a valuation between $3.5 billion and $4 billion, multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPN.com.”
Reporting that UFC is on the verge of being sold is a massive scoop. And as we learned recently, getting “scooped” isn’t something the company is too fond of. UFC President Dana White responded to the ESPN story by downplaying it at every turn. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “The ESPN story is overblown. Darren Rovell is not a fan of facts. His facts could not be further off.” White later insisted the following during a Dan Patrick Show interview.
“I’ll tell you this…The day we decide to sell, I probably don’t want to do this anymore. I love this. I love this business. I love the sport. I jump out of bed every day excited to go to work.”
The Washington Post noted at the time that Rovell wasn’t too thrilled with White repeatedly insulting his reporting skills. The ESPN writer took to Twitter to defend himself.
Hey @danawhite, once you hire an investment back to give out your financials, it's hard to say you're not for sale.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 11, 2016
About a month later, the UFC sale story once more began picking up steam, and with new details. Instead of four bidders, there are now just two interested parties. Both are reportedly working to put together approximately $4 billion bids.
“The two bid groups, WME-IMG in conjunction with Dalian Wanda Group, and China Media Capital, had similar bids in the $4.1 billion range, sources said.
“Sources said that both bidding groups are still trying to completely finance the buyout, which would be for the entire company. Which company ultimately wins out might depend on the details of that financing. Sources say WME co-chair Ari Emanuel has been asking well-heeled investors to chip in $25 million to $50 million.”
The implications of this news, if proven right, are incredible. So much so that veteran MMA reporter Ariel Helwani wasn’t even prepared to speculate when asked about it on Twitter.
Keep getting this Q. Impossible to answer that at this time. Obviously, some will change but unclear what. https://t.co/ZfP7livPJq— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 16, 2016
Meanwhile, Rovell used his Twitter account to talk additional details about UFC getting sold.
Process to sell UFC has picked up. After my story, UFC execs made parties sign more stringent non-disclosure documents.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 16, 2016
UFC fan response to the latest rumors was lukewarm at best. That could be blamed on the lack of certainty over the sport’s future should 100 percent control of the UFC go to someone new. As one commenter put it on MMAfighting.com,
“For all their faults, Dana & Lorenzo knew how to build the sport. Yes, they started by purchasing the largest American MMA organization, which gave them a leg up… but they had to invest tens of millions before it eventually grew to a profitable & well-recognized state. Even then, they developed the fighters, rivalries, stars, and regulations to move the sport forward.”
The fear was real. However, there may be a silver lining in all this. It’s believed that Dana White will stick around beyond the alleged sale. That would mean someone who had a hand in building the company from the ground up would be on hand to help fans adjust — and possibly keep UFC from drifting off the rails.
Although Dana has a stake in UFC, it is minuscule when compared with Zuffa LLC brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. The duo is said to own a combined 80 percent of the UFC. The Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that Flash Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government, owns 10 percent.
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this story? There’s a chance if the company is sold to WME-IMG in conjunction with Dalian Wanda Group, one of the primary investors might be the Kraft Group. The company is led by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots…and good friend of Dana White.
Do you think the UFC sale is a reality or just a rumor that refuses to die? Share your thoughts below!
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