Endeavor To Put Hiring Freeze In Place After Thanksgiving, President Mark Shapiro Reveals, But Plans To Staff Up Again In New Year After “Prudent” Pause – Update

UPDATED with additional Shapiro comments in an interview. Endeavor Group Holdings President Mark Shapiro told Deadline in an interview that a hiring freeze is in place at the company through the end of 2022, but he emphasized that it was enacted as a way to be financially “prudent” and not due to any operational weaknesses.

Plus, he added, “any positions that come open will still be backfilled” and the company intends to resume staffing up in 2023. That would put the sports and entertainment entity on a different footing than media and tech firms actively looking to shed workers in the coming months.

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During an appearance earlier today at a conference organized by RBC Capital Markets, Shapiro listed a pause on new hires as “first and foremost” on the company’s internal list of strategic priorities heading into 2023.

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A hiring freeze at Endeavor Group Holdings will take effect after Thanksgiving, company president Mark Shapiro revealed at a conference hosted by Wall Street firm RBC Capital Markets.

“Once we get a well-deserved Thanksgiving for our employees,” Shapiro said, the move will be implemented. It is being planned “not because we’re seeing anything in the business,” the exec emphasized, but rather due to broader concerns about the economic climate. “We need to really be prudent. We’re in or walking into a recession. We’ve got a war still going on, inflation’s where it’s at.” Recent tensions with China have also precipitated a lot of “fear” and “fear-mongering,” Shapiro added.

Stopping hiring is “first and foremost” on the company’s list of priorities for 2023, Shapiro said. “We just need a lean cost structure, quite frankly, as tight as we can have it. Hiring over the holidays is no good, you’re just giving them vacation anyway,” he said.

Endeavor reported having 7,700 employees in 29 countries as of the end of 2021. Shapiro didn’t indicate any particular areas of concern or potential areas ripe for streamlining across the company’s diversified portfolio, which includes WME, IMG and the UFC mixed-martial arts circuit.

The company is joining a growing list of media and tech companies tightening the belt after a bruising 2022. Disney CEO Bob Chapek last week warned of cutbacks coming at the media giant, while Warner Bros Discovery recently raised its target for cost savings related to the merger of predecessor companies WarnerMedia and Discovery. A portion of that projected $3.5 billion in savings will stem from staff reductions. Amazon, Meta Platforms and other tech companies have also been laying off staff amid gloomy market conditions.

In addition to holding off on adding staff, Shapiro said the company would be “continuing with debt paydown. At a time like this of uncertainty, we need to be conserving cash and working on the balance sheet.” As of the end of 2022, he said, the company would meet its stated goal of reducing net debt to less than four times trailing earnings, with the projected leverage ratio ending the year at 3.85 times.

Since going public at $24 a share in April 2021, Endeavor stock has largely moved sideways as Wall Street has debated its diversified strategy and sizable debt. Shares have gained 5% in today’s trading to reach $23.

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