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UFC and WWE combine to create $21.4B entertainment company

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UFC and WWE combine to create $21.4B entertainment company

WWE is saying goodbye to existing as a family-run business as it joins with the company that runs Ultimate Fighting Championship to create a $21.4 billion sports entertainment company.

The deal announced Monday between Endeavor and World Wrestling Entertainment, on the heels of its biggest event of the year, catapults WWE into a new era after spending decades under the control of the McMahon family.

Vince McMahon purchased Capitol Wrestling from his father in 1982, and took the regional wrestling business to a national audience with stars such as Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The company, which changed its name to World Wrestling Federation and later World Wrestling Entertainment, hosted its first WrestleMania in 1985.

McMahon, in an interview with CNBC, addressed doubts among some WWE fans and industry experts that he would ever make a deal for the business. “It’s the right time to do the right thing. And it’s the next evolution of WWE,” he said.

In a presentation after the deal was announced, the WWE and Endeavor said that they will cross promote to drive brand awareness and deepen penetration of their overlapping fan base, more than 700 million UFC fans and 1.2 billion WWE fans worldwide.

Ties already exist talent wise between WWE and UFC, with stars such as Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey crossing over between the two organizations.

A new publicly traded company will house the UFC and WWE brands, with Endeavor Group Holdings Inc. taking a 51% controlling interest in the new company. Existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% stake.

The companies put the enterprise value of UFC at $12.1 billion and WWE’s value at $9.3 billion.

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The new business, which does not yet have a name, will be lead by Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel. McMahon, executive chairman at WWE, will serve in the same role at the new company. Dana White will continue as president of UFC and Nick Khan will be president at WWE.

“Together, we will be a $21+ billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people and an exciting growth opportunity,” McMahon said in a prepared statement Monday.

He also provided some idea of where the focus of the new company will be, saying that it will look to maximize the value of combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster their brands.

Confirmation that WWE is being sold comes after McMahon, a majority shareholder of WWE, returned to the company in January and said that it could be on the block with viewership continuing to rise.

Rumors swirled about who would possibly be interested in buying WWE, with Endeavor, Disney, Fox, Comcast, Amazon and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund all in the mix.

McMahon said on CNBC that there were several buyers interested in WWE, but that combining with Endeavor is the right move.

“It makes all the sense in the world for all these synergies that we have to extract all of the value that we can out of the marketplace,” he explained.

Media industry analysts viewed WWE as an attractive target given its global reach and loyal fanbase.

The company held its marquee event, WrestleMania, over the weekend. The two-day spectacular, held at SoFi Stadium in California, topped the existing global viewership record by 28% on the first night. On the second night, it beat the existing global viewership record by 33%. Merchandise sales for WrestleMania 39 climbed 20% from a year earlier. Last year, WWE booked revenue of $1.3 billion.

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The company is also a social media powerhouse. It surpassed 16 billion social video views in the final quarter of last year. It has nearly 94 million YouTube subscribers and has more than 20 million followers on TikTok. Its female wrestlers comprise five out of the top 15 most followed female athletes in the world, across Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, led by Rousey with 36.1 million followers.

WWE had more than 7.5 billion digital and social media views in January and February of this year, up 15% from the same time frame a year ago. And WrestleMania 39 had more than 500 million views and 11 million hours of video consumed over the two days of the event, a 42% increase over last year.

The new company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the “TKO” ticker symbol. Its board will have 11 members, with six being appointed by Endeavor and five being appointed by WWE.

“We like the assets of UFC and also WWE in a world where linear TV is losing market share to streaming, thus live sport content is in high demand,” wrote Jeffries analyst Randal Konik said in a note to clients.

The transaction, which was approved by the boards of Endeavor and WWE, is targeted to close in the second half of the year. It still needs regulatory approval.

Shares of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., based in Stamford, Connecticut, are up 33% this year, but fell nearly 4% in Monday afternoon trading. Shares of Endeavor, based in Beverly Hills, California, slipped more than 7%.

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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Matthew Perry died from acute effects of ketamine, autopsy says

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Matthew Perry died from acute effects of ketamine, autopsy says

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matthew Perry died from the acute effects of the anesthetic ketamine, according to the results of an autopsy on the 54-year-old “Friends” actor released Friday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner said in the autopsy report that Perry also drowned in “the heated end of his pool,” but that it was a secondary factor in his Oct. 28 death, deemed an accident.

People close to Perry told investigators that he was undergoing ketamine infusion therapy, an experimental treatment used to treat depression and anxiety. But the medical examiner said the levels of ketamine in Perry’s body were in the range used for general anesthesia during surgery, and that his last treatment 1 1/2 weeks earlier wouldn’t explain those levels. The drug is typically metabolized in a matter of hours.

The report says coronary artery disease and buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid use disorder, also contributed.

The amount of ketamine detected “would be enough to make him lose consciousness and lose his posture and his ability to keep himself above the water,” said Dr. Andrew Stolbach, a medical toxicologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine who reviewed the autopsy report at the request of The Associated Press.

“Using sedative drugs in a pool or hot tub, especially when you’re alone, is extremely risky and, sadly, here it’s fatal,” said Stolbach, who noted that both ketamine and buprenorphine can be used safely.

Perry was declared dead after being found unresponsive at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. Investigators performed the autopsy the following day.

The actor had taken drugs in the past but had been “reportedly clean for 19 months,” according to the report.

Perry had played pickleball earlier in the day, the report says, and his assistant, who lives with him, found him face down in the pool after returning from errands.

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The assistant told investigators Perry had not been sick, had not made any health complaints, and had not shown evidence of recent alcohol or drug use.

Postmortem blood tests showed “high levels” of ketamine in his system, which could have raised his blood pressure and heart rate and dulled his impulse to breathe.

Buprenorphine, commonly used in opioid addiction and found in therapeutic levels in Perry’s blood, could have contributed to the breathing problem, the autopsy said. It would have been risky to mix the central nervous system depressant with ketamine “due to the additive respiratory effects when present with high levels of ketamine,” according to the autopsy report.

The report said his coronary artery disease would have made him more susceptible to the drugs’ effects.

Perry was among the biggest television stars of his generation when he played Chandler Bing alongside Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004 on NBC’s megahit sitcom “Friends.”

His castmates, like many of his friends, family and fans, were stunned by his death, and paid him loving tribute in the weeks that followed.

Perry was open about discussing his struggles with addiction dating back to his time on “Friends.”

“I loved everything about the show but I was struggling with my addictions which only added to my sense of shame,” he wrote in his 2022 memoir. “I had a secret and no one could know.”

A woman whose name is redacted in the autopsy report told investigators that Perry had been in good spirits when she spoke to him a few days earlier, but had been taking testosterone shots which she said were making him “angry and mean.” She said he had quit smoking two weeks earlier.

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The woman said he had been receiving the ketamine infusions for his mental health, and that his doctor had been giving them to him less often because he had been feeling well.

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic approved by U.S. health regulators for use during surgery, but in the past decade it has emerged as an experimental treatment for a range of psychiatric and hard-to-treat conditions, including depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

While not approved by regulators, doctors are free to prescribe drugs for these alternate uses if they think their patients could benefit, and hundreds of clinics across the U.S. offer ketamine infusions and other formulations for various health conditions.

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AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson in Washington state, Health Writer Matthew Perrone in Washington, D.C., and Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed reporting.

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Elton John testifies for defense in Kevin Spacey sex assault trial…

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Elton John testifies for defense in Kevin Spacey sex assault trial…

By BRIAN MELLEY

Published [hour]:[minute] [AMPM] [timezone], [monthFull] [day], [year]
 

 

 

LONDON (AP) — Kevin Spacey ‘s lawyers enlisted the help of an A-list star Monday in his sexual assault trial, calling on Elton John and his husband to cast doubt on one of the Oscar winner’s accusers at the end of the defense case.

John appeared briefly in the London court by video link from Monaco after his husband, David Furnish, testified that Spacey did not attend an annual gala ball at their Windsor home at the time that the accuser said he was attacked in a car.

John was the final witness for the defense and was followed by character testimonials from colleagues, friends and family that had Spacey in tears in the dock when they were read aloud by his lawyer in Southwark Crown Court.

Spacey, 63, has pleaded not guilty to a dozen charges that include sexual and indecent assault counts and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

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One of the alleged victims said he was driving Spacey to the White Tie & Tiara Ball in 2004 or 2005 when the actor grabbed his crotch so forcefully that he almost ran off the road.

Furnish supported Spacey’s own testimony that the only year he had attended the event was 2001. Furnish said he had reviewed photographs taken at the party from 2001 to 2005 and Spacey only appeared in images that one year. He said all guests were photographed each year.

John, who was wearing yellow tinted glasses, a dark jacket and light blue open-collar shirt, said the actor attended the party once in the early 2000s and arrived after flying to England on a private jet.

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Spacey’s appearance was a surprise and memorable because it was a big deal, said Furnish, a filmmaker and John’s manager, who also appeared from Monaco.

“He was an Oscar-winning actor and there was a lot of buzz and excitement that he was at the ball,” said Furnish.

John said the actor spent the night at their house after the event. He also confirmed that Spacey bought a Mini Cooper at the auction held that night for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Spacey said he spent the most money “ever” on that model of car and he kept it in John’s garage until he could pick it up later.

The alleged victim said he may have gotten the year wrong, but that he would not have forgotten the incident because it took his breath away and he was driving and almost crashed the car.

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The timeline, however, is important because the man testified that Spacey had fondled him over several years beginning in the early 2000s. The incident was the final occasion, he said. He threatened to hit the actor and after that avoided him.

Spacey said the two were friends and they engaged in some romantic contact but the man was straight, so the actor respected his wishes not to go further. He said he was crushed when he learned the man had complained to police about him and said the man had “reimagined” what had been consensual touching.

Furnish said he was familiar with the accuser and described him as “charming,” the same term Spacey used.

Over two days of testimony last week, the two-time Academy Award winner insisted that he never sexually assaulted three of the four accusers who described disturbing encounters between 2001 and 2013. The acts allegedly escalated from unwanted touching to aggressive fondling to one instance of performing oral sex act on an unconscious man.

Spacey dismissed one man’s fondling claims as “pure fantasy” and said he shared consensual encounters with two others who later regretted it. He accepted the claims of a fourth man, saying he had made a “clumsy pass” during a night of heavy drinking, but he took exception to the “crotch-grabbing” characterization.

Defense lawyer Patrick Gibbs rested his case after reading statements from 10 character witnesses who praised the actor’s work and compassion toward others.

Spacey dabbed at his eyes with a tissue as Gibbs read the words of actor Robert Sean Leonard, known for his role on the TV show “House” and the movie “Dead Poets Society.” Leonard said Spacey was “positive, supportive and respectful” and someone he admired greatly.

“He’s more than a successful actor, he’s a movie star, but unlike every other movie star I’ve worked with, he doesn’t know it,” Leonard said. “Stardom was never his goal. He loves and respects the work, and he loves and respects the people he works with.”

Closing arguments are expected later in the week. Spacey is free on bail.

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John’s testimony came just over a week after he wrapped up his 50-year touring career with a show in Stockholm.

It’s the second time the “Rocket Man” star and Furnish have made appearances in a London courtroom this year. The two also showed for hearings in March at the High Court in their phone hacking lawsuit with Prince Harry against the publisher of the Daily Mail newspaper.

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