Vince McMahon’s retirement was short-lived.
McMahon intends to return to WWE to facilitate a sale of the company, the Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday.
“WWE is entering a critical juncture in its history with the upcoming media rights negotiations coinciding with increased industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and with more companies seeking to own the intellectual property on their platforms,” McMahon said in a statement.
“The only way for WWE to fully capitalise on this opportunity is for me to return as Executive Chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.
“I look forward to working closely again with Michelle and George – as well as the Company’s remaining directors and management team, who have my full support and confidence.
“WWE has an exceptional management team in place, and I do not intend for my return to have any impact on their roles, duties, or responsibilities.”
McMahon stepped down from his role as chairman and CEO of WWE in July after the Journal revealed he had paid millions of dollars in “hush money” to several former employees for alleged sexual misconduct and infidelity.
After McMahon stepped down, his daughter Stephanie McMahon and former CAA super-agent Nick Khan, who had been WWE’s president, assumed the roles of co-CEO. Stephanie McMahon’s husband Paul Levesque, know by his ring name “Triple H,” was elevated to head of creative.
According to the Journal, the 77-year-old Vince McMahon wrote a letter to WWE’s board in late December announcing his intent to perform a strategic review process of the company. WWE’s live rights for “Raw” and “SmackDown,” which represent a major source of revenue for the business, are up in 2024.
Therefore, McMahon believes there is a window of time to pursue a sale. He was of the belief that potential buyers would want to own WWE’s intellectual property as opposed to renting it for their linear TV networks and/or streaming services.
Front Office Sports reported Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, who owns LIV Golf, are one of the interested parties.
“Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is emerging as a possible bidder for WWE if the promotion puts itself up for sale, sources told Front Office Sports,” the report said.
“PIF controls about $620 billion in assets. Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment company could be the next possible step in its global sports expansion.”
McMahon reportedly told the board that he was electing himself and former WWE co-presidents, Michelle Wilson and George Barrios, whom he fired in 2020 before ultimately hiring Khan for the job, to the board.
The board was said to respond affirmatively to the idea of a review for a potential sale, but “unanimously agreed” that McMahon’s return to the company “wouldn’t be in shareholders’ best interest.”
Though he stepped down from an operational role, McMahon still owns a majority of the company’s voting shares.
Three members of the board would need to change their positions in order for him to return to the company.
WWE stock rose 10 per cent, from $72 to $79 per share, in after-hours trading following the Journal’s report.
This story first appeared in the New York Post and was republished with permission.