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The Art of Ari’s WWE Deal

Endeavor C.E.O. Ari Emanuel (pictured) and president Mark Shapiro’s emotional pitch to WWE leadership led to the deal.
Endeavor C.E.O. Ari Emanuel (pictured) and president Mark Shapiro’s emotional pitch to WWE leadership led to the deal. Photo: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Dylan Byers
April 5, 2023

“Until Saturday, I didn’t even know we had this deal,” Mark Shapiro, the president and C.O.O. of Endeavor, told me today. Three weeks earlier, Shapiro and C.E.O. Ari Emanuel had placed a bid to acquire a majority stake in World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, the coveted live pseudo-sports asset that seemed like it could fit nicely into Endeavor’s portfolio, alongside its lucrative Ultimate Fighting business. 

Not long ago, the markets derided Shapiro and Emanuel for their interest in red state sports-ish leagues, like UFC and Professional Bull Riders, which Endeavor (then WME-IMG) bought in 2015. But as more streamers have begun dabbling in live sports broadcasting, media rights deals have escalated across the landscape, making even niche sports leagues more valuable. In retrospect, the moves look borderline prescient. And, in this world of so-called combat sports, WWE was undeniably a crown jewel.