As rumours swirl regarding the future of WWE with Vince McMahon’s return, here is a look at who could seriously purchase the sports entertainment giant.
Vince McMahon stunned the wrestling world yet again when he forced his way back onto the WWE Board of Directors, bringing with him former co-Presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson as he looked to consolidate his power once again.
That is exactly what happened with McMahon being named Executive Chairman of the company while his daughter Stephanie McMahon announced her resignation as Chairwoman and CEO. Although Vince McMahon and the Board are projecting a “business as usual” as far as day-to-day business goes, many fans seem unconvinced that the Executive Chairman won’t try and resume control of the creative functions of the company.
Following his return, rumours mounted that the company was on the verge of being sold to the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, but those inside WWE have labelled those rumours as “completely false,” at least for now.
That isn’t to say WWE won’t be sold with McMahon making sure he is at the head of the table for any such move and the company hiring investment bank giants JP Morgan to advise on such a sale.
So who is in the frame to buy WWE if – and it’s still a big if – Vince McMahon decides to sell:
The early front-runner if WWE is sold is their longest-serving broadcast partner Comcast, who owns the subsidiary NBCUniversal. Monday Night Raw has run on the USA Network for years and the relationship between the companies was strengthened when the WWE Network in the US was shelved in favour of the company’s content airing on the Peacock streaming service.
With revenue of over $116 billion in 2021 alone, the multimedia conglomerate has the financial power to purchase the company and with much of WWE’s programming airing on Comcast’s streaming service and network, it could prove to be a shrewd investment.
Speaking of multimedia powerhouses, Roman Reigns vs. Mickey Mouse anyone? With Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ as part of their portfolio, The Walt Disney Company has no shortage of outlets to put WWE on should they choose to buy the company.
Timing could be important in any deal with Disney also going through a period of rebuilding with Bob Iger returning to the company as CEO following a poor earnings performance. Iger has been given a two-year mandate to develop a strategy for renewed growth and bringing WWE in-house with its live events, merchandise, and licensing opportunities could be an attractive proposition.
Money won’t be a problem for Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com should they decide to take the plunge and purchase WWE with 2021 revenue of over $469 billion.
Amazon Prime is one of the biggest hitters in the streaming world and is no stranger to showcasing live sports having held rights for the NFL, NBA, Premier League football, and signing a deal to show Champions League football in the UK during the 2023-24 season.
With seven sports talk shows set to be launched on Prime in the near future, they are serious about covering sports and live events – whether WWE fits into that narrative remains to be seen.
Netflix has traversed changing fashions in its own industry, moving from a mail-based video rental company to a bonafide streaming giant. So they could show enough nous to make a big investment into their future by making WWE programming a cornerstone of their streaming offering.
The home to smash hit shows such as Stranger Things and Squid Games, Netflix claim to be bucking the trend in the streaming world by stating in a letter to its shareholders that made an annual operating profit of $5-$6 billion while they suspect their competitors have been losing money – possibly over $10 billion. Now could be the time to invest that profit for some long-term gains.
Endeavor Group Holdings began life as a talent agency and still exists as such but has grown to hold several entertainment entities, other talent agencies, and sports franchises, including UFC.
Endeavor used some of the profits from its 2021 initial public offering to buy Zuffa, LLC, the former parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Given its history as being seen as a competitor to WWE, this might put Endeavor putting in a bid should the opportunity arise.
But with a wealth of some of the best athletes on the planet and given the crossover from pro wrestling to the fields of film and television, the chance to represent WWE Superstars as agents could be the cherry on top of such a takeover.
Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund
So they haven’t bought the company yet but that doesn’t mean they won’t. The sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia has been used to make major sports investments in the past two years. Newcastle United Football Club received significant investment from the PIF as did the upstart golf league, LIV Golf.
The relationship between WWE and the Saudi Arabian rulers is well established with the company signing a ten-year deal to produce stadium-level shows from the country. Many feel that if the PIF walks away with WWE as part of its portfolio it is the most likely suitor to keep Vince McMahon as the man in charge, which might be an attractive proposition to McMahon.
Could he? The Rock running the show? Well, stranger things have happened. Dwayne Johnson conquered the world of WWE, earning himself millions and millions of fans before leaving for Hollywood and conquering the movie world as well.
Johnson has already followed in McMahon’s footsteps by partnering with business partners Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital to take over the XFL.
Now simply put, Dwayne Johnson doesn’t have the billions (and billions) of dollars it would take to purchase WWE outright but if anybody has the knowledge, charisma, and influence to pull together a team of investors that would make him Chairman of the Board, then it is The People’s Champ, The Rock.