WWE CEO Nick Khan said “without question” founder Vince McMahon would step aside if that was necessary to complete a sale to the right bidder.
Khan made that declaration in a call with investors after the company announced record annual earnings of $1.3 billion and a rosy growth outlook for 2023 on Thursday.
“Yes, without question. He’s declared it to the board,” Khan said. “He’s declared to us in management. It’s all about shareholder value. Obviously, he is a shareholder. So It’s not about what role he will have. It’s about maximizing that value opportunity.”
McMahon’s stance is believed to be aimed at potential acquirers who would want him to step aside as part of an acquisition. Think of a company with a squeaky clean image like The Walt Disney Co.
McMahon retired abruptly amid a sexual misconduct scandal in July before using his controlling stake in the WWE to put himself back in charge last month.
Beyond a potential sale, Khan said WWE will commence negotiations with its existing broadcast partners NBC Universal (“Monday Night Raw” on USA and exclusive streaming content on Peacock) and Fox (“Smackdown”) after April’s “Wrestlemania.” Those deals expire at the end of 2024.
Both media companies are among the potential bidders for WWE, and Khan, the company, is looking for “a partner that understands the media business.”
The other potential bidders include:
- Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the major financial backer of LIV Golf.
- The agencies CAA and Endeavor, the latter of which owns UFC.
- Like Comcast’s NBCU and Fox, Amazon would be looking to acquire WWE for its popular content.
What if No Sale Materializes?
WWE President and CFO Frank Riddick said all WWE’s hopes aren’t pinned on finding a suitor.
“The business is quite strong,” he said. “If nothing comes out (of the sale process), we have a number of growth initiatives.”
Looking ahead, Khan sees the WWE’s international opportunity as “huge.”
“These are all the things that we’re going to be looking at in terms of who can accelerate our business,” Khan said.