Famed superagent Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor is having an ugly time trying to find a buyer for his struggling beauty pageant business, and refuses to chop the price, The Post has learned.
Emanuel, the inspiration for fictional Hollywood agent Ari Gold in HBO’s hit show “Entourage,” has been shopping around his Miss Universe business for the last six months for $20 million, with no luck, a source with knowledge said.
The hard-charging CEO of Endeavor, which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the William Morris Talent Agency, snapped up the beauty pageant organization from Donald Trump in 2015 ahead of his presidential bid.
Although the sale price was not disclosed, financial statements related to Trump’s political campaign said the organization was worth between $5 million and $25 million and had $3.4 million in revenue.
A person familiar with Miss Universe’s financial situation told The Post the organization — which includes Miss USA and Miss Teen USA events — books $2 million in losses annually, while generating revenue between $7 million and $9 million.
Emanuel has been trying to woo foreign investors based in Asia and South America, the sources said. A person familiar with Endeavor’s thinking said in order to offload the asset, the price of Miss Universe may be lowered a little, but not much.
The mogul doesn’t like “admitting” he “lost money” on anything, so the price likely won’t be dropped “enough,” the person added.
Endeavor declined to comment.
A person familiar with the situation said a buyer is interested but declined to provide details.
The insider said Miss Universe has been profitable on average since Endeavor bought it — if the pandemic year is stripped out. The organization was forced to cancel events in 2020.
Endeavor, which went public in 2021, has been looking to prune some lackluster businesses as it hunts for more acquisitions and grows lucrative, money-making divisions like MMA league UFC, insiders said.
The Miss Universe pageant, which was founded in 1952, was first televised in 1955 by CBS. It emerged as a competitor to the Miss America pageant, which was founded in 1921. Although the two pageants are often confused, the Miss America pageant is owned by the non-profit Miss America Organization, which also runs a scholarship program that was launched in 1945.
Miss Universe’s rule book allowed only single women between 18 and 28 who have never been married or had children to apply. In recent years, both events have tried to evolve past their traditional roots as ratings plunged.
Last year’s Miss Universe pageant, won by India’s Harnaaz Sandhu, drew 2.7 million total viewers on Fox — putting the network in last place among the big four broadcasters. The rating marked a 30% dive from the 3.8 million viewers the pageant drew in 2019. Just two years earlier, in 2017, the pageant reeled in 5.2 million total viewers.
This year’s pageant is slated for December and will again be televised by Fox.
The drop in viewership also comes as critics question whether beauty pageants are dated and hinder the cause of gender equality. The Miss America pageant cut its swimsuit competition in 2018 amid waning ratings that most recently dropped to 3.6 million in 2020.
Last year’s Miss Universe pageant welcomed its first transgender contestant, and next year’s will allow married women and mothers.
For Endeavor, selling off Miss Universe will help it shore up cash for other business opportunities, a source said, noting that Emanuel has many investment ideas in mind.
Selling off assets has been part of Endeavor’s playbook. Prior to going public, the media conglomerate, which has an investment arm, sold stakes in Epic Games, maker of Fortnite, for about $80 million.
The company, which manages events for Fashion Week events around the world, various PGA golf tournaments and professional tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon and the Australian Open, also sold smaller investments in underperforming businesses, ahead of its second attempt to go public in 2021.
Endeavor, which reps the likes of Matt Damon, Oprah Winfrey and Christian Bale through its WME talent agency, tried and failed to go public in 2019 as investors eschewed Endeavor’s hodgepodge of assets and heavy debt load.
Two years later, the firm sweetened the pot, buying its remaining stake in the lucrative UFC, which helped Endeavor go public at $24 a share last April. In the last year, Endeavor’s stock has swung from a high of $34 to a more recent low of around $22.
The stock closed Thursday right near that low, at $22.55.