Former professional wrestler and actor Dwayne Johnson has become synonymous with "The Rock," his wrestling persona and nickname. The former wrestler is joining the Board of Directors of TKO Group Holdings, the parent company of the WWE, as announced Tuesday morning.
As part of the announcement, Johnson is gaining ownership of his trademarked name.
Netflix landed exclusive rights to WWE's "Raw" and other weekly shows from the wrestling league in a 10-year deal valued at $5 billion. The deal will begin in 2025, when an existing media partnership between WWE and Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) comes to an end.
Along with the streaming deal, TKO Group Holdings announced that Johnson and Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell have joined the company's Board of Directors.
"Very few people on the planet understand the convergence of sports, entertainment, media, and business like Rock. We are proud to have him join the TKO board to help take our company to new heights," TKO Executive Chairman Vince McMahon said.
The company indicated that the appointment of Johnson could help with long-term value creation for shareholders with growth initiatives for the UFC and WWE brands.
"I'm very humbled to have a seat at the table that has decades of history and family legacy for me. A table that my family helped to build," Johnson said, referencing his grandfather High Chief Peter Maivia and his father Rocky "Soulman" Johnson.
Tuesday's announcement also will see WWE entering into a services and merchandising agreement with Johnson over the trademarked name "The Rock." Johnson will secure ownership of the trademarked name as part of the agreement with the WWE having the merchandising agreement and an intellectual property assignment agreement.
An SEC filing reveals that Johnson received royalties of $491,000 from WWE in 2023. The merchandising agreement will see Johnson receive restricted stock awards up to $30 million.
"Taking full ownership of my name, ‘The Rock', is not only unprecedented, but incredibly inspiring as my crazy life is coming full circle. At my core, I'm a builder who builds for and serves the people, and Ari (Emanuel) is building something truly game changing."
TKO Group Holdings is majority owned by Endeavor Group Holdings (NYSE:EDR). Johnson has been a client of WME, which is owned by Endeavor, for around 13 years.
Why It's Important: Known for wrestling and acting, Johnson is also an entrepreneur with investments including Seven Bucks Production, Teramana Tequila, ZOA Energy and the United Football League.
Adding “The Rock” to the Board of Directors could open up opportunities and synergies with existing brands he owns or invests in. Johnson also has a brand partnership deal with Under Armour (NYSE:UA) with his fitness apparel line called "Project Rock."
The United Football League has media deals with The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and Fox Corporation (NASDAQ:FOX)(NASDAQ:FOXA). The league is co-owned by Johnson, and a first-hand look at how successful sports content on Netflix could lead to partnership opportunities.
With its ownership of WWE and UFC, TKO could also look to Netflix for more content partnerships down the road.
UFC currently has a 7-year, $300 million deal with Disney owned ESPN that expires in 2025. TKO CEO Ari Emanuel previously said the partnership with ESPN was great, but there were also other interested media partners for when the deal expires in 2025.
TKO, EDR Price Action: TKO Group Holdings shares were up 15% to $89.63 on Tuesday, versus a 52-week trading range of $72.33 to $106.16.
Endeavor shares were up 3.1% to $25.39 versus a 52-week trading range of $17.65 to $26.26.
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