It was announced on Monday that the Ultimate Fighting Championship had been sold for a whopping $4 billion to a group led by WME-IMG.
UFC co-owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta will be stepping away from the organization after the sale with UFC president Dana White still sticking around in the same role he currently holds within the promotion.
There are still plenty of questions to ask about the future of the UFC now that there are new owners in place for the first time in 15 years, but who are the people behind the sale?
Let’s take a look at some of the key players who put together the funds to plop down $4 billion to buy the UFC.
William Morris Endeavor-International Marketing Group is a huge conglomerate that merged in 2013 after WME purchased IMG for a reported $2.4 billion price tag. WME already boasted an incredibly powerful slate of clients as a talent agency representing movies, television, music and more. Some of the clients represented by WME include Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Oprah Winfrey, Dwayne Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Drake and Rihanna.
IMG is an international sports, events and talent management agency based out of New York. IMG hosts a number of big sporting events and also heads up the PBR — Professional Bull Riders.
Since merging, WME-IMG have worked on a ton of crossover promotions combining the talent agency’s impressive roster of talent with events and sports programming.
One of the names you’ll hear the most during this UFC sale is Ari Emanuel, who is the co-CEO behind WME-IMG.
Emanuel is already well known within the UFC after helping to orchestrate the television deal that landed the promotion with FOX in 2011. He also had a hand in helping fighters like Jon Jones negotiate deals with brands such as Gatorade and Nike in the past.
Emanuel is a veteran agent, who started his career with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) as well as ICM Partners before founding his own company called Endeavor. Eventually in 2009, Emanuel along with co-CEO Patrick Whitesell led an initiative to merge the company with the William Morris Agency to create one of the largest talent agencies in the world.
Emanuel may best be known as the inspiration behind the character Ari Gold in the HBO series “Entourage”. Famously the Ari Gold character was originally based on another agent, but after “Entourage” creator Doug Ellin met with Emanuel, he changed his mind about the creative process. Emanuel also made a push for Jeremy Piven to play the character when casting was being done for the show and he represents Mark Wahlberg, who the show was loosely based on when first created.
Emanuel is also the brother of Rahm Emanuel, who is the current mayor of Chicago and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama.
Patrick Whitesell is a former agent who worked with United Talent Agency and also served as the head of talent at Creative Artists Agency for six years. Whitesell eventually teamed up with Emanuel as a co-CEO after the merger between William Morris and Endeavor in 2009.
Whitesell’s client list also includes a slew of “A” list celebrities including Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Both Emanuel and Whitesell are known for being fierce negotiators and extremely passionate when doing business for their clients. WME-IMG already represents former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
SILVER LAKE PARTNERS
Silver Lake is a private equity firm with investments in technology and many technology based industries. Silver Lake has invested in companies such as Dell, Go Daddy, and of course WME-IMG. Silver Lake reportedly purchased a 31-percent stake in WME as part of their investment portfolio with the company.
Silver Lake was a key partner in William Morris Endeavor merging and purchasing IMG in 2013 and remain financial partners with the agency now as well.
The Silicon Valley based firm famously purchased a controlling stake in Skype for a reported $1.9 billion before selling it to Microsoft two years later for $8.5 billion.
A third name to associate alongside Emanuel and Whitesell is Egon Durban, who is a managing partner and managing director at Silver Lake. He also sits on the board of directors for WME-IMG.
If a major decision is being made at WME-IMG, Emanuel, Whitesell and Durban are the people making the call.
Before joining Silver Lake, Durban worked at Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division while heading up investment opportunities in the technology industry.
KKR — KOHLBERG KRAVIS ROBERTS
A strategic investor in the UFC purchase, KKR is a multinational private equity firm that specializes in leveraged buyouts. Founded in 1976 by Jerome Kohlberg, Henry Kravis and George Roberts, KKR has been a part of some massive purchases over the years including a buyout of RJR Nabisco.
KKR has also made significant investments in industries such as health care, retail, energy and natural resources.
This is the company responsible for the investments involving Michael S. Dell, who is best known as the creator behind Dell Inc and Dell computers.
Dell is listed by Forbes as the 35st richest person in the world with a net worth around $19.8 billion.
MSD Capital has teamed up with Silver Lake previous in a sale to purchase EMC, a company specializing in cloud computing, information security and data storage. They also teamed up to acquire Dell Computers, a company Michael Dell started with $1,000 when he was still a teenager 30 years ago.