Will Endeavor Come Out On Top in Latest Bout With an IPO?

Claudia Eller
·2-min read

So, it’s round two for Ultimate Fighting Championship owner Endeavor Group Holdings, which last week signaled plans for yet another initial public offering following its scotched attempt in fall 2019.

On March 18, Variety’s sister publication Sportico broke the news that the parent company of talent agencies WME and IMG had filed confidential paperwork for a possible IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The question on the minds of many is whether Endeavor honchos Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell can pull this off or suffer another black eye. There’s yet to be an official filing, so there are no details yet about Endeavor’s market capitalization, the number of shares to be offered and the timing of the offering, which is expected sooner rather than later.

Clearly, Endeavor is under renewed pressure from majority owner Silver Lake Partners, which is believed to have invested more than $2 billion in the company since 2012 and is eager to cash out. In September 2019, the overleveraged Endeavor was looking to raise money for expansion, new acquisitions and to help pay down its nearly $5 billion in debt. But the company’s timing couldn’t have been worse. The market for IPOs was so dismal (just ask Peloton), that it prompted Endeavor to yank its filing a day before its shares were to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Today, the stock market has notably rebounded. But Endeavor faces a number of other challenges. No different than many in Hollywood, it has seen its business ravaged by the pandemic and an industrywide shutdown of production. It had to institute layoffs and salary cuts across its company.

Yes, production and sports have resumed and theaters are beginning reopen as the number of COVID-19 cases has begun to abate and more and more people get vaccinated. Endeavor is bank- ing on the pent-up demand for entertainment and content. But the industry is still not in full financial recovery mode. And Endeavor is also in the throes of trying to unload 80% of Endeavor Content to comply with the terms of its new deal with the Writers Guild of America, which accused agencies of double dipping by producing content and representing talent.

Endeavor must hope all stars align this time for an IPO, or it could be in for another knockout.

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