UFC-owner Endeavor to IPO Thursday in the $23-$24/share range
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Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel’s entertainment conglomerate Endeavor will kick off its first day of trading as a public company on Thursday, The Post has learned.
The company behind Hollywood talent agency WME, mixed martial arts juggernaut Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Miss Universe contest, is on track list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time under ticker symbol “EDR.”
Last week Endeavor said it was looking to raise $511.2 million by selling 21.3 million shares priced at $23 to $24 a share, giving the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based company a value of more than $10 billion.
A source with knowledge of the plan said the company is on track to meet its goals.
That it means Endeavor will raise less than the $712 million it had aimed for during its first IPO attempt in 2019. The earlier IPO plan, which would have valued the company at about $6.5 billion, was called off after its share offering was met with a lukewarm response from Wall Street.
The company’s founders are expected to ring the opening bell Thursday at the New York Stock Exchange, including Chief Executive Emanuel, Executive Chairman Patrick Whitesell and President Mark Shapiro, sources said.
Although such an event would normally spark enthusiasm, insiders tell The Post that employees are “anxious” about Endeavor’s IPO pricing given the company’s past failed attempt to go public.
Staffers are also nervous because they don’t know how many shares they are getting. A source said equity awards to staffers will depend on several factors, including today’s value, dilution and ratio to UFC stock.
As exclusively reported by The Post in March, the company’s IPO plans include buying out the remaining 49.9 percent of the lucrative MMA giant behind Octagon bruisers like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, in order to make its IPO more attractive to investors. The buyout will be funded by a private sale of preferred shares to raise $1.7 billion, the company said.
Emanuel, who is the inspiration for the Ari Gold agent character in HBO’s “Entourage,” pulled the 2019 IPO as orders came in as low as $20 a share. The company, which had priced its stock to sell at $30 to $32 a share, had already lowered its price range to $26 to $27 a share in advance of the IPO.
The yanked IPO — which had been targeted to raise more than $600 million this fall — riled Endeavor’s talent agents, who live and die for for bonuses that can make up as much as 70% of their total compensation.
Many of the agents had been accepting stock options in exchange for smaller bonuses with the promise of a big pay day. Staffers griped that Emanuel and Whitesell were able to brush off the failure because, according to filings that emerged during the IPO process, they had sold a bunch of their stock for $165 million each to WI Investment Holdings — an entity mostly owned by affiliates of Silver Lake and WME Holdco — back in 2017.
Once the pandemic hit, the company further pissed off WME agents by pulling plans to buy back the stock, as the company had to scramble to shore up cash. In order to stay afloat, Endeavor which is reliant on live events, Hollywood production and media rights deals, secured a $260 million loan and sold assets, including stakes in Epic Games, maker of Fortnite for about $80 million. It also sold smaller investments and enacted a massive cost-cutting plan that resulted in thousands of layoffs.
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