WWE is no longer under the majority ownership of a McMahon for the first time in history, so who exactly is the company’s new owners?
On the day after WrestleMania 39, Vince McMahon and Ari Emanuel, the CEO of Endeavor, revealed to the world that a deal had been struck for Emanuel’s company to take over WWE. The deal valued WWE at $9.3 billion and would see it merged under a new company – later to be called TKO Group Holdings, Inc. – alongside UFC.
With this move seeing the biggest shift in WWE in decades, there are a lot of questions to answer in regard to the takeover.
Who is Ari Emanuel and what is Endeavor?
Ari Emanuel is the CEO of Endeavor, forming the Endeavor Talent Agency in 1995 alongside three other former ICM Partners agents. In 2009 Emanuel’s company merged with William Morris Agency which gave birth to William Morris Endeavor but the company name was eventually shortened to just Endeavor in 2017.
Emanuel was the inspiration for the fearsome Ari Gold character in Entourage and he has made no secret that he did not want Vince McMahon to walk away from the wrestling business after his short-lived retirement in July 2022 and seems to be fundamental in McMahon holding high office in the new organisation.
Is Vince McMahon back in charge of WWE?
Given the way McMahon forced his way back onto the company’s Board of Directors in early 2023, it could be argued that there was never really a time McMahon wasn’t in charge of WWE given his role as majority shareholder at the time.
McMahon’s new role is as TKO Group Holdings’ Executive Chairman, putting him in a higher position of authority than just WWE. Vince McMahon is believed to hold veto power in his new role but it would be very surprising if he used it in any relation to UFC given the MMA giant also falls under TKO’s purview.
Vince McMahon’s authority is likely consolidated by his relationship with Emanuel meaning that he could run things in WWE as he sees fit. Whether or not that means he will resume day-to-day control of creative in the company or will allow Triple H (Paul Levesque) to continue with those responsibilities remains to be seen.
Who is on TKO Group’s Board of Directors?
The Board of Directors of WWE’s new parent company is made up of five representatives appointed by the sports entertainment giant and six appointed by Endeavor.
The full leadership team was confirmed in a press release issued to mark the takeover:
- Leadership Team
As previously announced, TKO is led by:
- Ariel Emanuel, Chief Executive Officer, who continues as Chief Executive Officer of Endeavor;
- Mark Shapiro, President and Chief Operating Officer, who continues as President and Chief Operating Officer of Endeavor;
- Andrew Schleimer, Chief Financial Officer; and
- Seth Krauss, Chief Legal Officer, who continues as Chief Legal Officer of Endeavor.
Dana White is now Chief Executive Officer of UFC and Lawrence Epstein remains Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of UFC. Nick Khan continues at WWE in the role of President.
The Board of Directors of TKO is led by Vince McMahon as Executive Chairman of the Board and consists of 11 members, including Mr. Emanuel, Mr. Shapiro, and Mr. Khan, in addition to the following directors:
- Peter C.B. Bynoe, Senior Advisor at DLA Piper LLP;
- Egon P. Durban, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Silver Lake;
- Steven R. Koonin, Chief Executive Officer of the Atlanta Hawks, LLC;
- Jonathan A. Kraft, President of the Kraft Group LLC;
- Sonya E. Medina, President and Chief Executive Officer of Reach Resilience;
- Nancy R. Tellem, Executive Chairperson and Chief Media Officer of Eko; and
- Carrie Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer and a board member of Opendoor Technologies Inc.
What is Nick Khan’s role?
Nick Khan became the sole CEO of WWE when Stephanie McMahon resigned from all of her positions in WWE in January 2023 after her father returned.
Following the merger Khan will become WWE President and will likely have a big say on the company from the corporate side of things. His role will be similar to Dana White’s who remained UFC President after Endeavor took control of that company although Nick Khan will likely still have a lower profile than White.
Are job losses coming?
In a word, yes. Job cuts are believed to be imminent following the completion of the takeover with many who work backstage in WWE said to be “gritting their teeth” in the last few weeks amid uncertainty over their future. Through UFC, the new company already has things like accounting and travel departments so it is likely where these crossovers exist, that’s where jobs will go. Although there’s no guarantee they will all come on the WWE side of things.
There doesn’t seem to be imminent plans in place to cut numbers on the WWE roster although that is never out of the question as the previous three years have proved. The return of Nia Jax to Raw, however, might show that the company is open for business and open to signing stars.