Earlier this month, several reports revealed that World Wrestling Entertainment’s longtime leader Vince McMahon might be as scandalous as his on-screen character. He allegedly agreed to pay more than $12 million in hush money to suppress stories of sexual misconduct and infidelity over the past 16 years. To save the WWE brand from further embarrassment, the 76-year-old abruptly retired via an unceremonious statement on July 22nd. Now, the company says it will revise financial statements from 2006 to 2022 to account for the $14.6 million in “unrecorded expenses.”
Vince McMahon reigned as the boss of WWE for 40 years and was actively involved in every aspect of the business. Now that he’s stepped down as head of creative, CEO, and Chairman of the Board, some financial observers are wondering if the wrestling promoter will sell his controlling share of the company. Loop Capital analyst Alan Gould sees a good chance of that happening. He upgraded WWE’s stock on July 25 from “hold” to “buy” and boosted his stock price target by $31 to $90 “based on a greater likelihood that the company is sold, The Hollywood Reporter says.
The list of potential buyers is rather impressive, with Comcast looking like the most obvious candidate. The company already has the domestic rights to WWE’s weekly flagship show Monday Night Raw, as well as developmental brand NXT. It backs monthly premium live events and the reality series Miz & Mrs. Additionally it streams the former WWE Network on Peacock under a deal with the sports entertainment behemoth. Endeavor is another viable option as CEO Ari Emanuel’s team is already searching for live events and television audiences with mixed martial arts giant UFC.
Disney has also been mentioned as a potential WWE buyer due to its streaming and franchise focus. However, the company’s finances are currently stretched from the Fox acquisition and the pandemic. The House of Mouse also has a $9 billion obligation to buy the remaining third of Hulu from Comcast in January 2024. Other streamers whose names have been thrown into the mix are Netflix and Amazon. They have recently been competing for top sports and entertainment content to bolster their respective line-ups.
But several obvious factors indicate that Vince McMahon is going to keep his wrestling business in the family. Following his retirement, his daughter Stephanie McMahon was elevated to Chair and co-CEO. She previously served as WWE’s Chief Brand Officer. Her husband, retired wrestler Paul “HHH” Levesque, also returned as head of talent relations after taking time off due to health issues. Sharing CEO duties is former ICM agent and co-head of Television at CAA Nick Khan. He also worked as WWE’s President and Chief Revenue Officer since August 2020, making a name for himself as a successful deal maker.
Speaking about the state of WWE, analyst at FBN Securities says Rob Routh says a sale of the sports entertainment company is less likely now that Stephanie is in charge. But he doesn’t rule out the possibility completely. “Unless an offer surfaces having a valuation, structure, and partner that the McMahons just couldn’t say no to,” he told the publication.