Just when people started accepting that Vince McMahon was no longer involved in an official capacity at WWE, he’s now back.
First reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by WWE, McMahon is back on WWE’s board of directors. As the majority shareholder, he removed three board members and replaced them with longtime WWE execs George Barrios and Michelle Wilson.
McMahon retired last July due to reports of him paying millions over the years to multiple women to keep allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity from being made public, which resulted in an investigation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, McMahon is back to take part in negotiating WWE’s next media rights deal and a potential sale of the company. Because McMahon has the majority of voting power via Class-B stock, even when he was away from WWE, he has to approve a deal or sale. McMahon reportedly told the board he wouldn’t support or approve any media rights deal or sale unless he was directly involved in the negotiation.
A potential sale of WWE has always been speculated in recent years, but bringing McMahon back marks the first time that a sale is a real possibility. Naturally, there will be speculation on who would buy the company, which has a market value of more than $5 billion.
These are five potential buyers for WWE. Some companies are likely to get involved, some aren’t, and in no way is this a complete list. But these five entities have their own reasons to buy WWE and it’s entirely possible one of these five will take over when it’s all said and done.
Comcast seems like the logical favorite to buy WWE. WWE’s library is already on Peacock and Raw and NXT are already on USA. The only live WWE content Comcast doesn’t have the rights to in the United States is SmackDown on Fox. With a new rights deal coming up next year, it may make sense for Comcast (or maybe Fox) to buy the entire operation rather than spending billions just for the rights to show the content.
In addition, having WWE under the Comcast corporate umbrella could result in more opportunities for WWE Superstars to branch out into movies, as well as a WWE theme park at Universal Orlando. The many potential avenues of corporate synergy make this an enticing opportunity for Comcast.
Many of the things said about Comcast you could also say about Disney. While it seems like Disney doesn’t have a TV or streaming presence with WWE, they do. Disney has streaming deals with WWE in southeast Asia and has second-day rights to exclusively show Raw, SmackDown, and NXT for the first month on Hulu (Disney is a majority owner) in the United States.
While it might sound great to sell to a multimedia corporation, it might make the most sense to sell to Endeavor in terms of the stability of WWE as a whole. Using their purchase of UFC as an example, Endeavor kept Dana White in charge and the company has been relatively hands-off since. They let UFC keep doing what they’re doing, and Endeavor counts the money at the end of the day. Endeavor’s streaming subsidiary recently partnered with WWE and Endeavor president Mark Shapiro said last October that buying WWE would be “worth exploring.”
WWE is a conglomerate with lots of divisions. Comcast and Disney might want to buy WWE because of the synergy possibilities and because it makes sense to own their own content, but there’s more to WWE than content and they will need to keep that in mind. Those companies never booked a wrestling show or booked arenas for shows. Depending on how hands-on they get, a multimedia corporation owning WWE might not be as smooth of a transition as people would expect.
Instead, Endeavor will probably keep everyone where they are because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
WWE and Saudi Arabia have had a partnership since 2018, where the company is paid $100 million annually to have two shows in the country. Saudi Arabia has the money, and pro wrestling is already a big part of their sports portfolio; why not just buy the company outright?
There’s a very small chance this happens but it’s something you can’t completely discount. Saudi Arabia is trying to use sports to distract people from their poor human rights record. Other ventures like LIV Golf have somewhat gotten a pass. If the country buys WWE, that’s something people cannot ignore.
Could the former WWE Champion and current highest-paid movie star buy WWE? No, he probably can’t buy the company himself. But he, Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital already bought the XFL from Vince McMahon so it’s not that far-fetched for this group to go after WWE.
WWE is going to be way more expensive than a bankrupt second-tier football league, but The Rock is passionate about pro wrestling and WWE is profitable. With the backing of RedBird Capital, who invested in such sports ventures as AC Milan, Fenway Sports Group (Red Sox/Penguins/Liverpool FC/RFK Racing/NESN), and YES, to name a few, they have the money to not only buy WWE but include a partner who will treat the company right. And that might be the ultimate dream for everyone within the WWE Universe.