Who Are TKO? WWE’s Merger With UFC Explained As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Joins Board

Royal Rumble - WWE - The Rock and Roman Reigns 2015
Royal Rumble - WWE - The Rock and Roman Reigns 2015

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has joined the board of directors of TKO Group Holdings, the company that now owns both the UFC and WWE – but who are TKO?

This week, former WWE superstar turned Hollywood A-lister Dwayne Johnson was announced as a board member for TKO.

As part of the deal, Johnson has secured full ownership of his stage name, “The Rock”. The company also revealed they will be paying Johnson $30 million in stock over the next two years.

In a press release, TKO praised Johnson’s “significant experience” in building his various brands.

Johnson himself said that he is “very motivated to help continue to globally expand our TKO, WWE, and UFC businesses as the worldwide leaders in sports and entertainment.”

But who exactly are TKO and what does this merger mean for both the UFC and WWE?

Who Are TKO?

TKO Group Holdings (TKO) is an American media conglomerate. It was formed by Endeavor Group Holdings as part of the merger between the WWE and Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC.

With the merger completed on September 12, 2023, both WWE and the UFC now operate as divisions under the TKO banner.

This merger marked the first time in history that the WWE has not been solely owned by the McMahon family.

Founded over 70 years ago, the WWE has been owned by the McMahon’s since its inception, while the UFC has changed owners on three occasions.

WWE’s Vince McMahon is now executive chairman of TKO. Endeavor CEO Ari Emmanuel has become CEO of the new company, with Mark Shapiro president and chief operating officer.

Dana White is now serving as CEO of the UFC, under the umbrella of TKO Group Holdings.

Dana White Net Worth
Dana White is CEO of the UFC

The TKO board now has 13 members, with Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell joining Dwayne Johnson on the board in recent days.

Discussing Johnson’s appointment, Vince McMahon said: “Very few people on the planet understand the convergence of sports, entertainment, media, and business like Rock.

“We are proud to have him join the TKO board to help take our company to new heights.”

What Does The WWE And UFC Merger Mean?

The merger forms part of a joint attempt to rejuvenate and grow both brands over the next few years.

Between them, both companies expect to save anywhere from $50 million to $100 million in costs, and will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under “TKO”.

By merging, the new company has a value of more than $21 billion. The UFC was worth $12.1 billion, and the WWE $9.3 billion.

Shares will be split 51%-49% between Endeavor and WWE shareholders.

New CEO Ari Emanuel said: “This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed.”

The End Of WWE’s McMahon Era

It’s the end of WWE’s independence as a brand, with Vince McMahon no longer in sole control. He bought the company from his father in the 1980s, turning it into a global empire.

In 2021, WWE struck a $1 billion deal with NBCUniversal to stream its shows on Peacock.

McMahon was forced to retire as CEO of WWE in 2022 following a sexual harassment scandal. In July of that year, The Journal reported that McMahon had paid more than $12 million to four women.

These payments were allegedly made to cover up “allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity.”

McMahon later returned as a board member, exploring “strategic alternatives” including a sale. Revenue for the WWE hit $1.29 billion in 2022, with shares up 30%.

WWE’s Netflix Deal

Separately to the merger with the UFC, WWE also announced a landmark deal with Netflix. The Streaming service has acquired exclusive rights to show WWE Raw from January 2025.

This deal comes as Netflix looks to air more live events. But it’s not the first time it’s attempted live streaming.

Their highly-anticipated “Love is Blind” reunion stream was littered with technical issues and went terribly. But the company will be hoping for better results in this WWE deal, as Mark Shapiro explained.

The TKO President said: “This deal is transformative”, “It marries the can’t-miss WWE product with Netflix’s extraordinary global reach and locks in significant and predictable economics for many years.”

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