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Mon 3 Sep 2018 10:11 AM

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Exclusive: Abu Dhabi's Flash Entertainment sells its 10% UFC stake

UFC president Dana White this month claimed company is worth $7bn

Exclusive: Abu Dhabi's Flash Entertainment sells its 10% UFC stake
Conor McGregor punches Nate Diaz during their welterweight rematch at the UFC 202 event at TMobile Arena on August 20 2016 in Las Vegas Nevada. The Irishman returns to the octagon to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov on October 6. Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images.

Abu Dhabi based Flash Entertainment has sold its 10 percent stake in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for an undisclosed sum.

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Flash Entertainment CEO John Lickrish confirmed the sale of the global martial arts business shares, which it bought in 2010.

"After almost 10 years the time was right to exit that investment," Lickrish said of the sale.

Though the financial details are not known, UFC was sold for $4bn in 2016 to a group of investors headed by talent agency WME/IMG. At that time Flash Entertainment kept its stake.

Flash Entertainment CEO John Lickrish.

The value of its stake may have already been substantially higher by the time it divested its share, according to UFC president Dana White.

He claimed this month that the value of the brand was already much higher, telling the ‘Master Your Life with Tony Robbins’ podcast: “We just did a TV deal with ESPN for $1.5 billion for five years. Now the company is worth $7 billion.”

Flash partnerships

Flash has partnerships and agreements with various international brands, including Ticketmaster, FIFA Club World Cup and the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Lickrish admitted that major partnerships can be challenging.

"We've tried a few and it's always give and take. There's what's on the piece of paper and then there's the reality of making it work in practice. And the larger the organisation, the more challenging it can be.”

From Justin Timberlake to F1 concerts: How Flash Entertainment helped build the UAE's entertainment industry

This year, Flash Entertainment is celebrating ten years of hosting events that have helped put Abu Dhabi on the global tourism map. CEO John Lickrish looks back on the journey to make entertainment a key part of the UAE capital's growth strategy

Nevertheless he said that it was big partners that have helped give Flash international credibility.

"It's important for a company with regional aspirations to be able to work with multi-national companies. But obviously the bigger they are the harder it is to get away from their cookie-cutter approach to each market, especially this market. It's always a challenge to get people to innovate and understand the region."

Flash Entertainment is wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi government that is celebrating ten years of activities this year, having helped put Abu Dhabi on the map with 307 major events and over 2,600 event days over the decade.

Aside from headline grabbing shows with major international artists such as Coldplay, Guns n Roses, Madonna and the Rolling Stones, it also runs the FIFA Club World Cup, Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Mother of the Nation Festival and Yasalam Festival.

At the time of the deal in 2010, Flash Entertainment, chairman Ossama Khoreibi said: “Flash is equally committed to building Abu Dhabi’s profile as an international entertainment destination, and this partnership provides further proof of our company’s bold ambitions.”