Sources: 100% Sale of UFC Ownership 'Imminent'

Sources: 100% Sale of UFC Ownership 'Imminent'

On Thursday, a series of sealed and private bids—facilitated by the investment bank Goldman Sachs—for the purchase of 100% control of the Ultimate Fighting

Jun 16, 2016 by Jeremy Botter
Sources: 100% Sale of UFC Ownership 'Imminent'
On Thursday, a series of sealed and private bids—facilitated by the investment bank Goldman Sachs—for the purchase of 100% control of the Ultimate Fighting Championship were scheduled to be unsealed. 

Multiple sources confirmed the news with FloCombat. All refused to comment on record due to the sensitivity of the subject matter at hand. 

None of the bids have been accepted as of publication. But our sources noted that barring an 11th hour change of heart by the Fertitta brothers, it is likely a sale "will be executed imminently". The UFC's current ownership group has been involved in at least preliminary sale discussions dating back to the summer of 2014, when they were courted by the investment firm The Blackstone Group. Multiple sources also confirmed with FloCombat that FOX made an offer to buy the company last year, but the offer was roughly half of what UFC owners were seeking. 

When the winning bid is accepted, an immediate announcement should not be expected.

At least two of the bids are in the $4 billion area, with the highest said to be nearly $4.2 billion. That is believed to be the magic number Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were seeking in order to execute a sale of the entire company. If a bidder willing to meet that mark could not be found, the ownership group told Goldman Sachs to seek out potential buyers who would be interested in purchasing a 12-14% stake. 

Our sources indicated that the highest bid will come from a group combining the entertainment giant William Morris Endeavor Agency and The Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate that is also the world's largest operator of movie chains. ESPN's Darren Rovell followed up on FloCombat's initial report, saying that Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL's New England Patriots, is also part of the group with WME and Dalian. In addition, TenCent Holdings—the owners of the largest internet portal service in China—are also part of the group, though our sources weren't able to indicate exactly how much capital they would invest. 

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Selling 100% of the company means that the shares owned by the Fertitta brothers, Dana White, Flash Entertainment and the many sub-trusts (all related to the Fertittas or White in some way) with small ownership percentages will be sold. 

Two of the bidders, including the purported top bidder, have indicated their desire for White to stay around in a promotional capacity. Both are willing to grant him shares in the new ownership to entice him to stay, rather than making him an employee. This would allow White to cash out of his current stock, valued roughly at $345 million, and then also take a new stake in ownership which he can then turn around and sell later. 

It is also believed that very little of the UFC's business operations will change, outside of the Fertitta brothers and Flash Entertainment being out of the picture. Staffing in the production and public relations departments will not change. Matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby will continue in their roles. This is not to say the company will continue the same operating methods in perpetuity. But our sources indicated that very little about the way the company is presented to the public will change in the beginning. 

Zuffa last year enlisted Goldman Sachs to facilitate a sale. There were four interested bidding groups at the time. One of them, The Blackstone Group, withdrew from bidding before the process of sealed bid submissions began. Our sources have indicated that WME and The Wanda Group, along with The Kraft Group and TenCent Holdings, joined forces for a single bid instead of submitting competing bids.