World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) are to merge to create a new $21 billion (£16.8bn) live entertainment operation controlled by the WME agency’s parent company Endeavor Group.

Hailed as a new “live sports and entertainment powerhouse” the operation will be 51% owned by Endeavour, with the remaining 49% owned by WWE shareholders. The deal values WWE at $9.3bn (£7.2bn) and UFC at $12.1bn (£9.6bn).

WWE issued a statement in which it outlined that once it was combined with UFC, the operation will have global reach, impressive scale and omnichannel distribution. It said that on a combined 2022 fiscal year-end basis, UFC and WWE achieved revenue of $2.4bn (£1.9bn). The merger is expected to deliver between $50m (£40m) and $100m (£80m) in annual running cost savings.

The new company will be led by Ariel Emanuel, who will also continue as Endeavor CEO, Vince McMahon (executive chairman of the Board) and Mark Shapiro, who will be president and chief operating officer of both Endeavor and the new company.

McMahon said, “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. The new company will be well positioned to maximise the value of our combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetisation, develop new forms of content and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster our strong stable of brands.”

Said Emanuel, “This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pure-play built for where the industry is headed.”

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2023.