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Who are the Fertitta Brothers?

The Fertitta brothers are a duo of brothers Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, most famous as the owners of the UFC, a company that organizes and broadcasts mixed martial arts fights.

They turned the UFC from a despised and bloody sport once described by Senator John McCain as “human cockfighting,” into a highly successful and respectable business, now worth more than a billion dollars.

In 2016 the Fertitta Brothers sold the company for $4 Billion and Lorenzo would step down as the CEO and chairman of UFC.

The Fertitta brothers also run the family’s Las Vegas-based casino business, the Station Casinos.

The Roots of the Fertitta Empire

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Frank and Lorenzo are the sons of Frank Fertitta Jr. a self-made millionaire who rose from poverty to become one of the most prominent players in the casino business. In 1960 Frank Jr. Borrowed $100 from a friend and moved his young family from Beaumont, Texas to Las Vegas in a bid to find a better life. He took up a job as a bellman at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, and while there he trained himself in the art of being a dealer.

Over the next two decades he worked in various posts including dealer, pit boss, baccarat manager and general manager at various gaming and hospitality establishments in downtown Las Vegas. At the time, Vegas was still a budding gaming town and Frank Jr. recognized an opportunity in the gaming industry. He believed that there was a pressing need for a place where locals and casino workers could come after work and by offering great service and value, he believed he could attract many customers. In 1976, Frank Jr. opened his first casino which he named “The Casino.” The Casino was a huge success and over the years expanded tremendously and transformed into the Station Casino empire which survives to date and consists of 18 casinos.

The UFC and Family Casino Business

Frank Jr. eventually brought in his sons Frank III and Lorenzo who he had carefully groomed into the family business. Frank III, born in 1962, had a BS/BA degree from the University of Southern California. He entered the family in 1985 as general manager of the Fertitta Enterprises and by 1986 he had risen through the ranks to become president of the organization. His younger brother Lorenzo, five years his junior, had a Bachelor of Business Administration from the university of San Diego and an MBA from NYU. Lorenzo worked in various executive positions within the organization before rising to President and CEO.

In 2001, together with Lorenzo’s childhood friend Dana White, the brothers purchased the Ultimate Fighting Championship, then a struggling fighting club, for $2 million. They founded the Zuffa LLC as the parent company which would oversee the assets of the UFC. White was appointed as the president of the company and was awarded a 9% stake in the company. At the time the UFC was a no-rules gladiatorial spectator sport which was so vicious and violent that it had been banned in most states. The brothers came up with the idea of turning the sport into a reality TV show mainly distributed on a pay-per-view basis. They signed a deal with Spike TV, though the TV station required that the Fertitta brothers to pay $10 million for production themselves. The show grew rapidly and made stars out of players like Brock Lesnar, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. Zuffa later acquired the World Extreme Cagefighting and Pride Fighting Championships and merged them with the UFC. On august 18th, 2011 Zuffa announced a $90 million a year deal with Fox Broadcasting Company. Today the UFC has grown into a business worth more than a billion dollars. It has made MMA one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and it is broadcast to more than a billion homes across 149 countries. In May 2016 the Fertitta Brothers sold UFC.

In addition to the UFC the Fertitta Brothers also their father’s casino business, Station Casinos, having taken it over in 1993. In 2001, the same year they purchased the UFC, they took Station Casinos public but it declined into bankruptcy in June 2009. The companies were $6.5 billion in debt, against an asset base of $5.7 billion in debt. In an improbable turn of events, the brothers were able to guide the company out of bankruptcy by June 2011, through far reaching restructuring that saw the brothers reinvest more than $200 million, to raise their stakes in the restructured company to 45 percent. Effectively this move saved almost 13,000 local jobs and it was the largest ever in-court debt restructuring by a gaming company.

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