Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is taking a $400 million stake in Endeavor, one of Hollywood’s biggest talent and event managers, as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grand plan to diversify the kingdom’s oil-based economy, according to people with knowledge of the deal.
The purchase is the latest in a series of deals by the Public Investment Fund and is scheduled to close as soon as March 19, a day before Prince Mohammed and US President Donald Trump meet at the White House, said the people, who did not want to be identified as some of the details are still private.
In early April, Prince Mohammed will be the guest of honour at a Los Angeles dinner hosted by Endeavor chief executive Ari Emanuel, the people said.
Endeavor, which stages events worldwide from New York Fashion Week to Ultimate Fighting Championship fights, could play a key role as Saudi Arabia rebuilds industries that have withered since movie theatres and other forms of cultural expression were banned more than 35 years ago. One proposal under discussion would have the company work with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority and General Entertainment Authority on projects ranging from staging events to training athletes, the people said.
PIF is buying into Endeavor on similar terms as Singapore’s GIC and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which invested last August. Two of the people said the fund would take a 7 per cent stake in Endeavor, while another pegged it as a bit less.
In addition, Saudi Arabia will have a seat on Endeavor’s international advisory board for the entertainment, sports and fashion powerhouse. William Morris Endeavor Entertainment was formed by the combination of William Morris and IMG.
Entertainment is one of the sectors Prince Mohammed has made a priority as part of the Vision 2030, his plan to wean the kingdom off its dependency on oil while, at the same time, relaxing some of the social restrictions that made it one of the world's most conservative countries. In January, for the first time in decades, movies were screened in public theaters, when The Emoji Movie and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie playing in Jeddah.
The crown prince has been using investments by the PIF to build relationships with other companies he hopes will play a role in its economic and social transformation, including SoftBank and Blackstone.
In this latest deal, the PIF is being advised by Michael Klein & Co and Endeavor is using Ares Holdings, the people said.