UPDATED: Dwayne Johnson has joined the board of directors of TKO Group Holdings, Inc., the company formed by Endeavor that merged WWE and the UFC.
Johnson, one of the most popular actors and media personalities on the planet, broke out as a star for WWE (then WWF) in the 1990s and early 2000s. He held multiple world championships in his time with the pro wrestling juggernaut and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
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“I am thrilled to partner with Dwayne and welcome his immense talent to TKO’s Board,” said Ariel Emanuel, CEO of TKO. “Dwayne brings an incredible track record of creating content and building globally recognized consumer brands, and he will play a key role in realizing our ambitions for TKO.”
WWE added that it has also entered into a services and merchandising agreement with Johnson. Under that agreement, Johnson will provide promotional, licensing, and other services to the company. Johnson also gains ownership of the trademarked name “The Rock” as part of an intellectual assignment agreement.
Per the SEC filing for the announcement, Johnson will also receive just over $30 million in TKO stock. That filing also revealed that Johnson received $491,000 in royalty payments from WWE in 2023. “Following the Effective Date, Mr. Johnson will continue to receive such annual royalties from WWE and will be entitled to receive royalties in connection with the sale of licensed products that utilize the Assigned IP and his name, likeness and other intellectual property rights in accordance with the Services Agreement,” the filing states.
News of the board appointment and other agreements comes as it is widely speculated that Johnson will return to WWE for a match against his cousin and current WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. That would be his first match in WWE since 2016.
“My grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, and my dad, Rocky ‘Soulman’ Johnson, would’ve never thought this day would come,” Johnson said in a statement. “Which is why 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. Being on the TKO Board of Directors, and 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 is building something truly game changing. I’m very motivated to help continue to globally expand our TKO, WWE, and UFC businesses as the worldwide leaders in sports and entertainment — while proudly representing so many phenomenal athletes and performers who show up every day putting in the hard work with their own two hands to make their dreams come true and deliver for our audiences. I’ve been there, I’m still there and this is for them.”
Onscreen, Johnson is known for starring in blockbusters like “San Andreas,” the two new “Jumanji” films, multiple entries in the “Fast & Furious” franchise and the spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw,” and the Disney animated film “Moana.” His other business ventures include the United Football League (formed with a merger of the Vince McMahon-founded XFL and the USFL), Teremana Tequila, Project Rock, Zoa Energy, and Seven Bucks Productions.
Vince McMahon, executive chairman of the TKO board, said, “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.”
Johnson has longstanding ties to a number of high-ranking people in the TKO organization. In addition to his lengthy relationship with McMahon and WWE in general, Johnson has known current WWE president Nick Khan since the two were children, along with Khan’s sister, TV writer and producer Nahnatchka Khan, who co-developed Johnson’s NBC series “Young Rock.” Emanuel, meanwhile, serves as a leader of Johnson’s team at WME, where Johnson has been a client for 13 years.
Johnson is not the only new TKO board member to be named, though likely the only one to be featured in a match at WrestleMania. Brad Keywell has been brought on as the 13th member of TKO’s board. Keywell is the founder and executive chairman of Uptake Technologies, and has previously co-founded and led companies such as Groupon, Echo Global Logistics, and MediaOcean. He was the recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2019 and currently serve as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
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