WWE was a hot commodity on the market before the company was sold to Endeavor in April.
Per a May 12 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (page 85), WWE was in contact with "over 60 potential counterparties" between Jan. 17 and April 2, "including strategic companies, financial sponsors, family offices and sovereign wealth funds."
Between Feb. 6 and March 21, WWE entered into confidentiality agreements with 20 potential counterparties:
"All but one of the confidentiality agreements entered into by WWE in connection with this process included a standstill provision for the benefit of WWE with a customary exclusion permitting parties to make proposals to WWE privately and confidentially, and each of the standstill provisions had a duration of at least 12 months. All confidentiality agreements entered into with standstill provisions included the customary exclusion for private proposals and a "fallaway" provision that would allow the counterparty to make a proposal to acquire WWE in the event WWE entered into a definitive sale agreement. Each potential counterparty that had indicated interest in exploring a strategic transaction with WWE was provided an opportunity to enter into a confidentiality agreement with WWE."
Due to the confidentiality agreements, it's unclear who the other suitors for WWE were.
The Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which has had a business relationship with the company since 2018, had interest in buying WWE, per Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Subhojeet Mukherjee of ThirstyforNews.com).
There were reports in January that WWE was being solid to Saudi Arabia and would be made a private company again, but those were quickly debunked.
Vince McMahon returned to WWE in January after retiring in July 2022 amid an internal investigation into payouts McMahon made to women to suppress allegations of infidelity and sexual harassment. McMahon was accused in two lawsuits of sexually assaulting former WWE referee Rita Chatterton in 1986 and a former spa manager in 2011.
He settled Chatterton's lawsuit in January.
McMahon reinstated himself to the board of directors on Jan. 6. CNBC's Alex Sherman reported the following day WWE hired JPMorgan to advise on a potential sale.
On April 3, one day after WrestleMania weekend in Los Angeles, Endeavor announced it purchased a controlling interest in WWE and the promotion would merge with the UFC to form a "global live sports and entertainment company."
The two companies together are valued at $21.4 billion. The UFC has been owned by Endeavor Holdings Group since 2016.
McMahon will be executive chairman of the board for the new company. The official transaction and merger are expected to be closed in the second half of 2023.
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