Mark Shapiro: Vince McMahon didn’t talk to TKO about selling shares

Originally published at Mark Shapiro: Vince McMahon didn’t talk to TKO about selling shares

TKO Group Holdings says they are no longer contacting Vince McMahon and do not plan to bring him back into the company.

TKO President Mark Shapiro discussed McMahon this week when he appeared at Morgan Stanley’s “Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.” Shapiro made it clear that McMahon — who left his TKO role in January after a lawsuit was filed against him by a former WWE staffer alleging to have suffered sexual assault and trafficking — is not talking with the company at the moment.

Shapiro also directly addressed McMahon’s recent filing to sell roughly $411 million of his shares in the company. He said that McMahon’s move was not coordinated by them.

TKO President & COO Mark Shapiro earlier today at Morgan Stanley TMT conference:

"We're not in conversations with Vince [McMahon]… We don't talk to him… We don't know his motives, his plans, his timelines, what, if any. He doesn't consult with us. He doesn't work for the…

— Brandon Thurston (@BrandonThurston) March 6, 2024

“We did not participate in the recent sale on Vince McMahon’s load that he dropped off,” Shapiro told Morgan Stanley. “This is now his second time, he’s gone from 28 million shares to 15 million shares. He now has roughly eight and a half percent. We’re not in conversation with Vince. I said this on the [quarterly earnings] call, we don’t talk to him, we don’t know his motives, his plans, his timeline. He doesn’t consult with us, he doesn’t work for the company. He doesn’t work at the company, he doesn’t come into the offices of the company, and he’s not coming back to the company.”

As Shapiro noted, the recent McMahon sale was the second time recently that he has let go of a large amount of shares. In November of last year, he sold around $670 million worth of TKO shares.

Shapiro: WWE will ‘go to town on sponsorships,’ continue focus on site fees

Earlier in the call, Shapiro was asked about sponsorship opportunities in both UFC and WWE. He said that there is a “lot of work to do” with how WWE ties brands into its programming, comparing the amount of sponsorships on a UFC canvas to the sponsor-free WWE ring.

“I’m not criticizing Vince McMahon,” he said, talking about how WWE handled sponsorship opportunities in the past. “The WWE didn’t activate and didn’t do a lot of branding inside the arena. In fact, the canvas was blank … And so, we’re going to go to town on sponsorships.”

Shapiro went on to mention the importance of site fees for both promotions. Shapiro has mentioned the importance of site fees in the past, mentioning that UFC and WWE can receive eight figures for singular events.

Praises ESPN, but says UFC is willing to find new broadcast partner

Shapiro praised UFC’s broadcast deal with ESPN during the interview but gave a reminder that they are willing to move the promotion’s content to whatever partner could offer them the best deal. 

Since 2019, ESPN and ESPN+ have been the exclusive home for UFC programming. This includes live events, pay-per-view broadcasts, and original programming like Dana White’s Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter. The success of the deal makes Shapiro hope they can stay with them.

“It is our preference to stay with Disney because of this history, but we’ve had impromptu [conversations with] three different platforms inquiring about that window you’re talking about … Which by the way we will do if we don’t get the right deal.”

He praised how ESPN has shown great interest in UFC programming and how their product has been prioritized greatly. He mentioned a hope that WWE’s recent deal to broadcast Monday Night RAW on Netflix starting in 2025 could be a similarly successful partnership.

“If we can replicate that with Netflix, we’re golden,” he said.

When asked about the antitrust lawsuit filed against the UFC that is expected to go to trial in April, Shapiro said he believes in the merit of the case. He praised that UFC pays its fighters more than any other promotion, although made no mention of how the promotion’s split between athlete pay and revenue stacks up to most major sports leagues.

Half way there. Hopefully he sells all his shares soon and is completely disconnected from the company.