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Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor makes volatile market debut

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    Patrick Whitesell, left, and Ari Emanuel previously attempted to float Endeavor in 2019
Anna Nicolaou, Aziza Kasumov and Eric Platt in New York yesterday
Shares in Hollywood talent agency-owner Endeavor made a volatile stock market debut on Thursday following an initial public offering that valued it at just over $10bn and cemented the wealth of its founder Ari Emanuel.

The company’s shares changed hands above $28 shortly after trading opened before falling to $23.80, below the $24 at which the IPO and a simultaneous private placement had been priced the previous evening.
Endeavor raised $1.9bn through both transactions.

Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, Endeavor’s executive chair, together with other executives, will own a pot of 37.7m of Endeavor’s 429.7m shares, a stake worth more than $900m at the IPO price.

Emanuel founded Endeavor in 1995 as a talent agency and the company has expanded and diversified through a number of acquisitions, buying rival William Morris Agency and sports agency IMG and adding the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Miss Universe beauty pageant to its portfolio.

Endeavor raised $511m from stock market investors in the IPO and another $1.4bn through a simultaneous private placement of its shares. Investors in the private placement include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala and Elliott Investment Management, along with venture capital firm Silver Lake, which has been one of Endeavor’s biggest backers since 2012.

KKR, which bought a slice of UFC in 2016, also raised roughly $437m through a sale of its Endeavor stake through the concurrent private placement.

Endeavor was hit hard by the pandemic last year, after live events were halted and movie and television productions were shut down. Losses widened in 2020 to $625m on $3.5bn in revenue.

UFC, the mixed martial arts franchise that Endeavor bought in 2016 in partnership with private equity groups, has been a more reliable part of the group’s business. Although UFC was also affected by the cancellation of events, the company is relatively stable thanks to a long-term licensing deal with Disney, netting it $300m a year to air UFC events on ESPN and its streaming service.

Endeavor plans to use some of the IPO proceeds to buy the remaining 49.9 per cent of UFC that it does not already own.

It previously attempted to float in 2019, when it sought to raise as much as $712m at an $8bn valuation, before shelving the plan because of limited investor appetite.

“The number one lesson we learned from 2019 was that the UFC . . . being wholly owned was something investors coveted,” Whitesell said. “That’s the biggest change since then. Not only did [the UFC] survive during Covid, it thrived.”

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank advised on the 2021 offering.


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