Mass layoffs: Over 100 employees cut after UFC-WWE merger – UPDATE 2

There were mass layoffs after UFC and WWE officially merged to form TKO. Could more be coming?

By: Anton Tabuena | 2 months ago

Soon after the UFC and WWE officially merged to form “TKO,” mass layoffs began. Over 100 people were reportedly let go, with employees and a few executives being part of the initial wave of cuts.

Endeavor boasted about millions in savings from these layoffs

TKO / WWE / UFC chairman Vince McMahon flexing his money.

Mass layoffs were expected after this new company headed by Endeavor was formed. When the merger became official, Ari Emanuel boasted about TKO’s stock value, room for growth, and possibly up to two hundred million in savings from making cuts.

“I think we had a range of $50 to 100 (million initially), with regard to back office and costs. We’re on our way to kind of doing that. We did that with the UFC, we are on our way here (with WWE),” Emanuel said. “There’s also a lot of savings as it relates to the production side because of their production facility, and our production facility.”

Most layoffs were WWE employees and office staff

As Emanuel noted, with the UFC already going through budget cuts and mass layoffs in 2016 after Endeavor acquired them, most of these new layoffs after TKO’s formation are from the WWE side of things.

According to detailed reports from PWInsider, “100+” employees were hit in the initial round of layoffs last Friday.

Several divisions within WWE were gutted, with mass cuts coming to teams such as Insights & Analytics, Marketing, Graphic Design, WWE Network, Podcasting, and Live Events.

Executives no longer with the company include CFO Frank A. Riddick III, VP of International & Platform Strategy Andy Levine, EVP of Development and Digital Jamie Horowitz, Brand Director Kimberly Kierkegard, and EVP & Head of Marketing Catherine Newman.

Dana Warrior, widow of legendary WWE Hall of Famer “The Ultimate Warrior,” was also cut from the company. She was part of the company’s community outreach department, and previously with the creative team.

Although there were rumors of roster cuts, there were reportedly “zero talent releases” on Friday, which focused on office staff. That being said, it’s unclear if Endeavor is already done making cuts with the pro-wrestling organization or the UFC after this merger.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 6: Dana Warrior at WWE s 2018 Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 6, 2018. PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xGeorgexNapolitanox
Dana Warrior during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Photo via IMAGO / Media Punch / George Napolitano

Top executives had bonuses from UFC-WWE merger

While many employees were deemed redundant and over a hundred people lost their jobs, the top executives from the WWE had big paydays from the merger. According to a previous SEC filing from April, WWE brass had multi-million dollar bonuses after the merger officially closed.

WWE CEO Nick Khan had a bonus of $15,000,000, while Chief Content Officer “Triple H” Paul Levesque had $5,000,000, with both amounts payable in full as soon as the merger closed.

CFO Frank A. Riddick III, who is no longer with the company, was listed to have a $5,000,000 bonus, with 60% being paid after the deal closed, and 40% in the six months after.

Jun 03, 2008 - Los Angeles, California, USA - WWE Wrestler TRIPLE H, Chairman VINCE McMAHON and WWE Star MARIA at the Press Conference for the WWE Chairman VINCE McMAHON giving away $1 Million dollars each week. until he feels like stopping held at Staples Center, Los Angeles - ZUMAf05_ 20080603_rua_f05_710
Triple H and Vince McMahon will make big money from this merger. – Photo via IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

UPDATE: No UFC cuts, WWE morale beyond ‘decimated’

Layoffs are expected in mergers and acquisitions, but there is obviously a human element to things.

The WWE staff were asked to work remotely on Friday, when they laid off over a hundred of their employees. Monday was their first time back in the office after the massive cuts, and they returned to empty desks and a skeleton crew remaining. PWInsider‘s sources described it as “a lot of processing” during a “sad morning” and that “to say that morale among WWE employees has been decimated would be an understatement.”

WWE CEO Nick Khan issued a memo that cuts, at least on the office side of things are done. UFC reportedly did not have any cuts during this time.

UPDATE 2: Ari Emanuel, Vince McMahon fail at boosting morale?

Ari Emanuel, Vince McMahon and Nick Khan all reportedly hosted a quick employee meeting at the new WWE headquarters to try and up the morale after the mass layoffs.

PWInsider’s sources described it as a “rah rah” gathering, where “Emanuel, Khan and McMahon all praised each other, the success of the merger into TKO and WWE as a whole.”

Sean Ross Sapp also noted how “McMahon referred to Ari as his boss and said that the company had stagnated and this deal was to get them to the next level.”

This is untrue as WWE announced record finances before the merger, and it reportedly didn’t get good reactions from some of the employees.

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About the author
Anton Tabuena
Anton Tabuena

Anton Tabuena is the Managing Editor for Bloody Elbow. He’s been covering MMA and combat sports since 2009, and has also fought in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

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