“Being at the stock exchange the morning, ringing the bell just felt a bit surreal, like maybe this really isn’t happening,” says Bill Fullerton, global controller and chief accounting officer at Endeavor. But it did happen. Fullerton and the rest of the Endeavor team succeeded in taking Endeavor public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Despite a previous failed attempt and a pandemic, Fullerton motivated his team to persevere by tapping into his years of experience.
Fullerton spent twelve years of his career working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after earning his accounting degree from Boston College. Shortly after making partner at PwC, Fullerton made the unusual decision to leave public accounting and broaden his experience at Lucent Technologies and then subsequently at Interpublic Group (IPG).
While he was at Lucent Technologies, Fullerton saw firsthand that he could face challenges that came his way. “I was at Lucent during one of the most trying times in its history with its spin-offs, a restatement and SEC investigation, and Lucent’s stock price driving to an all-time low,” he says. “We worked through all that.”
It was his work at both Lucent and IPG that gave Fullerton the foundation he could build on at Endeavor, a global leader in entertainment, sports, fashion, and content whose subsidiaries include WME, IMG, and UFC. The company, which operates in more than thirty countries, specializes in talent representation and management, brand strategy, media sales and distribution, and event management.
Endeavor may seem like a big shift in industries for Fullerton, but the opportunity to take the company public was the major draw.
“I think it was the intrigue of going to a pre-IPO company with nearly $4 billion of revenue,” says Fullerton on his decision to join the team at Endeavor. “The company represents some of the top actors, athletes, and models in the world, coupled with such diverse other businesses like the UFC, Professional Bull Riding, and the IMG Academy. I thought it was an exciting opportunity.”
Fullerton knew he was prepared to handle the challenge, thanks to great mentors. “I’ve worked with some tremendous people over the years and have had some terrific mentors,” he says. “And when you surround yourself with really good people, it improves your odds of being successful.” He met that challenge with the successful IPO on April 29, 2021.
Endeavor’s initial attempt at going public was canceled in September 2019, on the eve of ringing the bell on the NYSE. Fullerton had led his team through the IPO process up until that fateful day when they pulled the IPO.
A year later, Fullerton faced his team that again needed to commit to the long hours and arduous process of going through another IPO attempt. “Motivating people to push ahead and do it again was a bit of a challenge—even personally—after getting that close and having it pulled for various reasons,” he notes.
The timing of it all added increased stress as the COVID-19 pandemic struck less than six months after the first attempt at an IPO. “COVID added to the challenge,” Fullerton says. “It has certainly proven that we can get a lot of things done even remotely, and it speaks to the team we have.”
Fullerton motivated his team by keeping them focused on the objectives and encouraging good communication. “I told them this time was going to be different because we were better positioned to be successful,” he says.
He credits his leadership during this time to his ability to bring the public company experience to the table through the expertise he built at Lucent Technologies and IPG. “There are a number of people at Endeavor that had never been a part of a public company,” he says. “I was able bring that experience to the team.”
Since Endeavor’s successful IPO, Fullerton says his role has shifted to meet the expectations of a public company. “Now you’re a public company you have to be a public company—Form 10-Qs, disclosure committees, press releases, earnings call scripts,” he explains in his June 2021 interview. “That’s all been new to a lot of people here. Now we’re in the process of closing Q2, and on a real public company reporting timeline.”
Thoughts from Guest Editor Susan Pikitch
“I’ve always contended that you learn more when faced with difficult situations than in good times, and Bill Fullerton is a perfect example of that. Working at Lucent during its most trying time gave Bill the experience and fortitude to ultimately take on a new and exciting challenge at Endeavor. Even then, their first IPO attempt was aborted at the eleventh hour, but Bill hung tough and was finally able to see it through successfully. He gets to demonstrate his adaptability and fortitude once again, pivoting from a private to public company environment at Endeavor and all that is involved from financial reporting and disclosure perspective.”
Read features from the Issue 4 2021 Finance section, which include commentary from Guest Editor Susan Pikitch.