Raine bags $65mn fee advising WWE on Endeavor takeover

Raine Group, the US merchant bank leading a sale of Manchester United football club, will rake in one of its biggest paydays if World Wrestling Entertainment’s merger with Ultimate Fighting Championship closes successfully.

The group, launched in 2009 by former Goldman Sachs banker Joe Ravitch and Morgan Stanley and former UBS banker Jeff Sine, is set to make $65.5mn from the deal, with the vast majority of the fees due once it is complete.

Raine has built its reputation advising on some of the biggest sports and entertainment transactions. Last year it helped Roman Abramovich sell Chelsea Football Club for £2.5bn and more recently landed a coveted role working on a potential sale of Manchester United for the billionaire Glazer family.

The details of Raine’s fee were recently disclosed in US securities filings as Vince McMahon’s WWE looks to complete an all-stock $21bn merger with Endeavor Group-owned UFC to create a wrestling and mixed martial arts entertainment powerhouse.

The filings last Friday show that JPMorgan and Moelis are set to earn about $25mn each for advising WWE alongside Raine. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.

The total aggregate fees of about 1 per cent of the transaction value to be paid to Raine, JPMorgan and Moelis, is at the high end of the historical range, according to a previous Financial Times analysis.

Raine’s Sine has worked with the McMahon family over a 20-year period, including Vince’s wife, Linda, who has also served as chief executive of WWE.

The bank advised Vince McMahon on the revival of the XFL, a professional American football league, in 2020.

Endeavor faced competition from two other bidders but McMahon and Endeavor’s chief executive, Ari Emanuel, raced to complete the tie-up over WWE’s annual WrestleMania weekend extravaganza in early April.

Despite working with McMahon on the UFC merger, Raine has close ties with Emanuel, who was an initial backer of Raine. Raine has worked on several transactions involving Endeavor, including the $1.3bn sale of sports training business IMG Academy just weeks after the WWE deal was announced.

Raine — which has about 25 partners and managing directors, with total staff of about 175 — also played its part in a series of deals that formed Endeavor. It also has an investing arm.

It advised talent agency William Morris Endeavor on the sale of a minority stake to private equity group Silver Lake in 2012 and the group’s acquisition of sports agency IMG the following year. It then advised UFC on its sale to the WME IMG — the predecessor to Endeavor — in 2016.

The WWE-UFC merger is a boon to the advisers in an otherwise slowing market for corporate dealmaking as higher interest rates and economic uncertainty have hurt activity.

Raine is advising on the Manchester United process, which has entered its final stages and has become one of the most closely followed deals in sport this year.

The competition for United has come down to just two bidders — British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, seeking to buy at least a majority stake — and Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

That is in stark contrast to the battle to buy Chelsea last May. The club was eventually sold for a record price for an English Premier League team in a deal orchestrated by Ravitch and Raine partner Colin Neville, earning Raine in the region of $38mn, according to LSEG Deals Intelligence estimates.

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