The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is in talks about buying a stake in WME holding company Endeavor. PIF, as the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund is known, is in preliminary discussions about investing more than $500M for what could be a 5%-10% share, Deadline has confirmed.
Along with the talent agency, Endeavor owns IMG, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Professional Bull Riders and the Miss Universe organization. An investment from Saudi Arabia would help with its continued expansion under CEO Ari Emanuel and Executive Chairman Patrick Whitesell.
Saudi itself is expanding as it seeks to make entertainment a key component of its future economy and amid a diversification to reduce the Kingdom’s financial dependence on oil. Under the progressive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, a 35-year cinema ban has been lifted, creating what is seen as a potentially lucrative market going forward. And in September, it was reported the PIF was developing a new branch with an initial $2.67B capitalization to focus on entertainment investments.
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program has ambitions to increase cultural and entertainment offerings, create new employment opportunities and to make use of the talent of Saudi’s youth (about 70% of the population is under 30). The PIF investment arm will provide capital to support that growth. But the company is also looking to “localize the large amount of spending on entertainment outside the Kingdom,” the PIF said last year.
Discussions on the Endeavor stake are ongoing, an earlier Bloomberg report noted.
Endeavor was valued at $6.3B including debt when it raised money in August 2017, a person with knowledge of the matter told the news agency. Existing investors include Silver Lake, SoftBank, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.