Multiple sources confirmed the news to FloCombat early Wednesday morning. Text messages to UFC President Dana White and Vice President of Public Relations Dave Sholler requesting comment went unanswered as of press time.
Our sources said that the basics of the deal was finalized during a dinner meeting in Hollywood last Sunday between Lorenzo Fertitta, Ari Emanuel—the CEO of WME-IMG and one of the most powerful men in entertainment—and other UFC and WME-IMG executives. The exact sale figure is not known at this time, though FloCombat sources indicated it is in the range of $4 billion US dollars.
Months ago, the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs was tasked with handling a sealed bidding process for prospective buyers to submit purchasing bids. The winning investment group also includes Dalian Wanda, China's largest commercial property owner and operator of the largest chain of movie theaters in the world; Tencent, the owner of China's largest internet portal and search engine; and the Kraft Group, the owners of American sports franchises including the New England Patriots.
On June 9, Variety reported that WME-IMG announced a "joint venture" with Sequoia Capital China that would allow WME/IMG to quickly accelerate growth in one of the world's toughest international markets to penetrate. WME/IMG already has a significant presence in the Chinese market, however, with recent investments in the Chinese Super League and mass athletic competitions such as Tough Mudder.
Combine WME/IMG's already stable presence in the Chinese market with the massive power of Tencent's internet power, and it's easy to see why a purchase of the UFC was considered an attractive proposition. Mainland China is the last remaining untapped market for the UFC, and the new China-heavy ownership will have an easier time running events on the mainland rather than on the offshore island of Macau.
FloCombat sources previously indicated that 100% of the UFC was involved in the sale, and that the Fertitta Brothers would leave the UFC to focus on the expansion of their Las Vegas casino empire. White, who owns approximately 8.89% of the company, was said to be cashing out to the tune of $320 million US dollars. But our sources also said that the new ownership group would grant White a new ownership stake in order to entice him to continue in his role as president and promoter.
As far as Fertitta's CEO role is concerned, several names have been mentioned by our sources. One is Garry Cook, the former executive of the Manchester City Football Club. Another potential CEO candidate is Emanuel himself, though with his busy schedule it would be difficult to imagine him having the time to devote to running the UFC's business operations.
The new ownership will not take effect until all paperwork is finalized. But multiple sources told FloCombat that an announcement of the sale is expected to take place at some point during the UFC's upcoming International Fight Week in July, which is capped off by a massive UFC 200 card featuring three title fights and the return of former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
Stay tuned for updates to this story with developments as they occur.