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A look at Hollywood’s playbook for surviving the pandemic

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What do Elon Musk, Charlie Chaplin, Serena Williams and private equity giant Silver Lake have in common?

They are part of the cast of characters whose star power (past and present) has aligned behind Endeavor, the $ 3.5 billion majority owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and a famous talent agency and operator. live events.

In 2019, the company, led by Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel, shelved its $ 400 million IPO amid poor investor interest. Its last known valuation was $ 6.3 billion in 2018, according to data from PitchBook.

Now Endeavor is back in the hunt for a ticket to Wall Street. The company has just relaunched its bid to go public, claiming its ability to bounce back from the pandemic via a digital entertainment portfolio spanning mixed martial arts, horseback riding and a large list of licensing and marketing clients.

As well as being a new talk for investors, the company’s prospectus is also somewhat of a read-book on how one of Hollywood’s biggest power brokers survived the world’s biggest health crisis and modern day economy.

In 2009, Endeavor merged with century-old talent agency William Morris, which formerly represented Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. Today, the group, dubbed WME, work for sports giants like Serena Williams. He has also funded hit shows like “Hamilton”.

The new prospectus describes a business that, despite the devastation wreaked by the pandemic, is well positioned to thrive as normalcy returns to the vast commercial networks that crisscross the worlds of entertainment, marketing and cultural events.

Endeavor has recently seen increasing losses and declining sales – a trend accelerated by the pandemic. It lost $ 625 million on revenues of $ 3.48 billion in 2020, compared to a loss of $ 530.7 million on revenues of $ 4.57 billion a year earlier.

The stakes are high for large investors like Silver Lake, which supported Endeavor from 2012. The other main shareholders are the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Singapore sovereign wealth fund.

From a long-term perspective, Endeavor is betting that the increase in consumer adoption of digital entertainment, sports, and social media will continue to grow long after we’ve all thrown our masks in the trash.

Which brings us to Elon Musk. With a certain Commander-in-Chief banned from Twitter, Musk is arguably the biggest (if not the most brash) fly in the Western world on the social media platform. Now, Musk has been named to Endeavor’s board in preparation for its IPO.

It’s not hard to see how comfortable great personalities like Musk could be with Endeavor.

The company has a digital marketing unit that goes by the shameless name of 160over90. If this reminds you of an increase in your blood pressure, that is precisely the idea. The agency boasts of running campaigns that trigger a reaction in people – 160/90 is the blood pressure level “when your heart starts to pound and your hands start to sweat,” their website says.

That’s an apt name, given that Endeavor also controls the UFC, the gladiator-type mixed martial arts show he has owned since 2016. Endeavor revealed in his latest filing that he plans to acquire the 49.9% of the UFC he doesn’t own. t already owner, pending completion of the IPO.

Maybe watching a showdown between two big guys ready to break up isn’t your thing. But that’s for some 625 million UFC fans, according to Endeavor’s prospectus, and its fights reach a broadcast audience of up to 1 billion homes worldwide through subscription streaming services and pay-per-view channels. In-person admission (and the action itself) isn’t for the faint-hearted sports fan: cheap seats for an upcoming event will set you back $ 1,250 (including food and other perks) and prices go up to $ 3,500 near the ring.

Along with the UFC, the company owns PBR, a professional bull riding circuit based in Colorado.

After lockdowns began last year, the UFC and PBR were together in the first wave of pro sports getting back into action, adopting early health protocols to make this possible. The company used this experience to help resume film and television productions safely.

But Endeavor also says he has been hit hard by the shutdown and has used that time to take cost-cutting measures such as postponing rent payments, which he says could pay off thanks future improvement in margins and cash flow.

Pandemic scars aside, Endeavor is funded by blue chip investors and has featured clients. Soon it will have a captain of the electric car industry on board. His delayed trip to Wall Street has qualities worthy of a Hollywood thriller. Time will tell if investors deem it a success or a flop.

This article was published as part of The Weekend Pitch newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

Image featured of UFC opponents by Handout / Getty Images

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