WWE's potential sale: What's happening, how did we get here and who's buying it?

It was incorrectly reported the company had been sold to Saudi Arabia earlier in the week

Vince McMahon has returned to WWE after abruptly retiring in July amid a misconduct investigation. Getty Images
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Earlier this week, WWE made headlines after rumours the wrestling company had been sold to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The internet was ablaze on Tuesday after Bodyslam and Dazn’s Steven Muehlhausen said the two sides had agreed in principle and that a deal was effectively done.

However, only 24 hours later — and after some confused and shocked social media reactions — it turned out to be untrue as MMA and wrestling journalist Ariel Helwani waded in. Muehlhausen later deleted his original tweet.

But with some recent major shake-ups in the company including the return of Vince McMahon and the departure of his daughter Stephanie, more changes may be on the way.

Here’s a look at everything we know so far.

Changes in upper management

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Vince, the long-time chief executive and chairman of the company, would be returning. It comes almost six months after he resigned amid a misconduct scandal and then promptly retired in July.

In November, the company said a special committee had formed to look into the allegations, and then completed its investigation and has since been disbanded.

After Vince stepped down, Stephanie took over as the co-chief executive and chairwoman of WWE, while her husband Paul “Triple H” Levesque was promoted to chief content officer of the company.

But on Wednesday, days after her father’s return, Stephanie resigned from her role.

“I cannot put into words how proud I am to have helped lead what I consider to be the greatest company in the world and I am confident WWE is in the perfect position to continue to provide unparalleled creative content and drive maximum value for shareholders,” she said.

This now leaves Nick Khan as the new WWE chief executive, while Vince has elected himself, alongside two former co-presidents and directors, to the board. The report by The Wall Street Journal also suggests that Vince’s return is to help with media negotiations for next year but that it may also be tied to the possibility of exploring a sale of the company.

Working with The Raine Group

Besides the changes in leadership, the company has also been hiring outside groups that could help any sale over the finishing line.

On Thursday, a new release from the WWE announced The Raine Group had been brought in as its financial advisor, Kirkland & Ellis as its legal advisor and August LLC as its strategic communications advisor.

The Raine Group helped the UFC with its $4 billion sale in 2016 and has a history of brokering blockbuster deals. It also helped the sale of Chelsea last year for $5.2 billion and is currently overseeing Manchester United's possible sale.

So, with The Raine Group on board, it seems as though WWE is on the hunt for the right buyer.

Who could buy the WWE?

Disney

There’s been no word on whether Disney will bid for WWE, but it has long been suggested that a merger could make sense. It was reported that Khan met with Disney chief executive Bob Iger and ESPN president James Pitaro during a football game before the Saudi PIF rumours.

WWE would be a welcome addition to the Magic Kingdom. Photo: Walt Disney World

WWE shows could stream on the ESPN+ platform, helping to strengthen its programming. It also helps that WWE already airs on Disney+ Hotstar in the Philippines and Indonesia. Plus, Disney could use the company’s IP for theme parks, movies and more.

Comcast

Telecommunication company Comcast is also another possibility. WWE has an exclusive streaming and television deal in the US at the moment with NBCUniversal’s Peacock and USA Network, both owned by Comcast. The company has a stock market valuation of more than $160 billion, giving it plenty of firepower should it wish to launch a bid.

Fox

Although Fox seems less likely to purchase WWE due to its smaller market valuation of around $17 billion, it does have a TV deal in place for WWE’s Friday Night Smackdown. Fox sold most of its entertainment assets in a $71 billion sale to Disney in 2019 but could be a good place for WWE, with its sports and live-action programming.

Saudi Arabia

WWE has a large Saudi Arabian fanbase. Many attended the Elimination Chamber event at the Jeddah Super Dome last year. AFP

The WWE already has a lucrative 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia's government, with two major shows to be hosted annually in the kingdom until 2027. If the company were to sell to Saudi Arabia's sovereign fund, it would definitely shake things up. It was incorrectly reported that the Saudi PIF made a $6.5 billion offer for the WWE, which doesn’t seem that out of reach.

AEW

This seems less probable, but a report from CNBC quotes an anonymous source at AEW saying the upstart wrestling promotion’s owners Shahid and Tony Khan (no relation to WWE’s Nick Khan) would be interested in possibly merging with WWE. Shahid already owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the English Premier League's Fulham FC but it appears unlikely the WWE would want to merge with a competitor.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 3:03 PM
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