Dana White on UFC ownership’s looming buyouts: ‘I’m not going anywhere’
Reports last week that Beverly Hills mega-talent agency WME/IMG has raised $1.1 billion from two international investors to buy out some of its UFC minority partners stirred some speculation that UFC President Dana White might be leaving the company.
“I’m not going anywhere, brother,” White told the Los Angeles Times. “Not only am I not going anywhere, I’m actually making moves in the office and doing [stuff] and changing things for the way I really want it.”
“I’m burrowing myself in like a … tick.”
In a news release Wednesday, WME/IMG announced Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Government of Singapore Investment Fund will join WME/IMG primary stakeholder Silver Lake Partners as strategic partners.
In a letter to its shareholders, Silver Lake Partners reported WME/IMG, headed by Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, who bought the UFC in July 2016 for $4 billion, will use the $1.1 billion to buy out some minority partners. The transaction is set to close this month.
A person familiar with the plans but unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter said those being bought out included banks, investors in the United Arab Emirates, former owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and White himself. Not all will be bought out fully, the official said, but the investment money will allow WME/IMG to expand to a majority 51% ownership stake in the UFC.
“The money Ari’s raising shows the commitment that Ari has to the UFC, and how much he loves this thing,” said the official.
Emanuel entered the UFC business originally by helping former UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta land a television network deal with Fox.
WME/IMG will make additional acquisitions, according to another person familiar with the deal who was unauthorized to comment publicly.
Under WME/IMG ownership, the UFC entered into a first-ever cross-promotion with another company by agreeing to let Showtime televise the unique Aug. 26 pay-per-view boxing match between UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and unbeaten boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Current light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been among those contending Emanuel is now the true “boss” of the UFC, a swipe at White’s healthy pride in a relationship that has been watched closely since White pocketed $400 million from last year’s sale and could conceivably leave at any time for another pursuit.
“Ari and I are partners. We’re getting involved in more [stuff]. We’re not going to spend a lot of money and not change things,” White told The Times while speaking from the UFC’s newly opened performance institute headquarters in Las Vegas. “I’m making a lot of changes in this new building for things I want changed.”
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