The UFC will soon be in the hands of a new ownership group.
Multiple sources confirmed with FloCombat on Monday afternoon that a bid of $4.2 billion from a group consisting of WME-IMG, the Dalian Wanda Group, The Kraft Group and Tencent Holdings was accepted by Zuffa brass. While this does not mean the entire company is officially sold, it is a strong likelihood that the sale will be completed shortly.
A sealed bidding process handled by the investment bank Goldman Sachs accepted private bids from a number of companies. Initially, many of the companies were filing separate bids.
But unable to come close to the valuation Zuffa was looking for, they combined into two groups. One featured WME-IMG (led by Zuffa confidant Ari Emmanuel), the Dalian Wanda Group, The Kraft Group (owners of the New England Patriots and other sporting properties) and Tencent Holdings, the owners and operators of the largest internet portal in China. Tencent Holdings also owns Riot Games, the owners of the popular e-sports competitive game League of Legends.
FloCombat sources indicated that the majority of the money for the deal is coming from the Dalian Wanda Group and Tencent Holdings. But WME-IMG and the Kraft Group would act as the faces of the new ownership group, at least in North America.
The other group that submitted a sealed bid was China Media Capital. FloCombat sources indicate the CMC bid fell well short of the sought-after valuation. In 2014, there were discussions with The Blackstone Group about a potential sale, but it fell through. And in 2015, sources indicate FOX made an offer to purchase the company, but the offer sheet was less than half of what Zuffa sought.
Our sources reiterated once again that Dana White will be staying with the company. His current shares in Zuffa will be sold as part of the deal, but he will be granted new shares to stay on in his current promotion capacity. A new CEO will be selected to handle emerging international businesses; the name we were told is Garry Cook, the former head of the Manchester City football club. White would continue to handle the promotional end of the company—with matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby staying on board in their current roles—while Cook will focus on expanding business dealings in new emerging markets.