Real-life ‘Succession’: Vince McMahon sells WWE to UFC

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Nihar Patel

Pat McAfee (left) and WWE owner Vince McMahon wrestle during WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX, Apr. 3, 2022. \ Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

LA-based company Endeavour Group Holdings, the owner of mixed martial arts league UFC, is purchasing a controlling stake (51%) of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), a family-owned business. Together, the entity could be worth billions.

WWE was founded in 1953 by current owner Vince McMahon’s grandfather and has become a live television dynasty.

According to The Athletic writer Chris Vannini, the timing of the deal comes down to broadcasting and streaming revenue – WWE’s deal with NBC Universal and Fox expires soon, and it’s expected that the company can make a lot more money in its next contract.

“The ratings are very good relative to everything else on television. Wrestling is typically the most watched thing on cable when it's on. And it's very hard to find that in television, live sports in particular. The rates keep going up because it's the one thing that gets people to tune in live.”

The road to this acquisition looks a lot like a real life version of HBO’s show “Succession.” McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, who is also a wrestler, was supposed to take over.

“A couple years ago, McMahon had a comment to Pat McAfee, of all people, that maybe he had too high of expectations for his kids. That it seemed clear that he didn't feel like that was going to be the best option. … It really is an end of an era for the most popular wrestling company in the world,” Vannini says.

Vannini expects UFC and WWE to stay largely separate after the deal is finalized. But both will be part of one publicly traded company called NewCo.

Meanwhile, McMahon will stick with the company: “He will remain with this new company as something like the executive chairman of the board. The board is going to be a combination of people that Endeavour picks and some people that WWE picks. He said he will still have a role in WWE and a lot of high end creative decision making.”

So how will the company coexist? Vannini says it’ll be an opportunity for each brand to expand.

“They are two very successful companies on their own. And they do shows in different ways. UFC is very much an adult-oriented product, lots of swearing, lots [of] real fighting, lots of blood, and all these things. WWE, since the heyday of the Attitude Era in the early 2000s, has really shifted toward being a family-friendly product. They're similar and different, simply, in many ways. But I think from a business perspective, both are incredibly profitable and successful right now.”



  • Chris Vannini - The Athletic writer covering college football and wrestling


Marisa Lagos