How Endeavor’s Mark Shapiro Rewrote Sports Deals From ESPN to the UFC | The Deal

Mark Shapiro has a habit of making the unlikely happen. From marrying Ultimate Fighting Championship with World Wrestling Entertainment to making the call to hire Stephen A. Smith at ESPN, Shapiro finds a way to get deals done. Now, as president and COO of Endeavor and TKO—the publicly traded combination of WWE and UFC—he and Ari Emanuel are reshaping sports, media and entertainment. On the latest episode of The Deal with Alex Rodriguez and Jason Kelly, Shapiro reveals their guiding principle: Even in the most turbulent of media worlds, people love to watch games.

Shapiro made his name as the brash young head of programming at ESPN, greenlighting some of its most iconic programs, including Pardon the Interruption, the long-running talk and debate show hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

It was also Shapiro who overruled his direct reports by bringing in Stephen A. Smith for an audition, a decision that catapulted Smith to the very top of the sports media pyramid and redefined the medium around hot takes. (Smith is a guest on an upcoming episode of The Deal).

The pair work together still, with Smith now represented by Endeavor’s talent arm. Shapiro and his partner Emanuel (made famous by the fictional Ari Gold on Entourage) have built Endeavor into a multifaceted entertainment company heavily invested in sports. Its biggest deal was creating TKO, which went public last fall and now has a market capitalization of $16 billion.

Amid all the dealmaking, Shapiro—who in between ESPN and Endeavor ran Six Flags—says he’s focused on creating situations where talent inside his shop and out can keep moving forward.

Listen to The Deal on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, Bloomberg Carplay, or wherever you get your podcasts. You

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