There have been rumors over the last couple of years that the Zuffa, headed by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, are looking to sell the UFC, and according to a report from ESPN.com they may be close to a deal.
Per the report, WME/IMG, China Media Capital, The Blackstone Group, and Dalian Wanda Group are among at least four suitors for the organizations who have submitted bids, and if they proceed past preliminary bids the organization could sell for upwards of $4 billion.
Wrote ESPN reporter Darren Rovell:
Investment bank Goldman Sachs has been representing Zuffa LLC, which bought the UFC in 2001 for only $2 million. Sources with knowledge of the numbers presented to potential investors said that Goldman Sachs had represented UFC’s last full year earnings in the $200 million to $250 million range, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. A new television rights deal, which would begin in 2019, could add an additional $250 million in annual revenue to the bottom line, investors were advised.
The leader in the bid to buy the biggest mixed martial arts business in the world is said to be Chinese-based conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, sources said. Its chairman, Wang Jianlin, is the richest man in China, worth nearly $35 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.
What a potential sale means for the UFC is unclear, but those questions will start to be asked as this comes closer to reality. Zuffa has owned the organization since 2001, with the Fertitta’s purchasing it from original owners Semaphore Entertainment Group for $2 million.
Penick’s Analysis: It’s not surprising in the least that they’re coming close to selling. They have taken the UFC brand global and have turned it from a $45 million money pit into what will be a massive payoff if this comes to fruition. New owners coming in will want to make their own moves, and we’ll find out what that entails when it happens, but for the Fertittas – off their most profitable year ever in 2015 – likely won’t find a better time than now to pull the trigger on a sale.
UPDATE: UFC President Dana White has officially denied the report, telling Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports that they “are not for sale.” With that said, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s publicly denied something that later came to fruition.
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