The idea of a WWE sale has been bandied about in recent years, but it seems even more possible than ever in the coming year.
In July, something occurred that many within World Wrestling Entertainment, their fanbase, and the industry thought would never happen, and that was CEO Vince McMahon retiring from his billion-dollar creation.
The news came just a couple of weeks after McMahon stepped down as CEO following two different Wall Street Journal stories that revealed millions worth of hush money payments from McMahon to a mistress and women claiming sexual misconduct by the WWE creator over the last two decades.
While losing such a highly influential figure can be damaging, WWE was able to maintain its value after McMahon’s daughter Stephanie and President Nick Khan were installed as Co-CEOs, and his son-in-law and WWE legend Paul “Triple H” Levesque took over the creative side of their product.
Also read: We rank the 20 greatest WWE wrestlers of all-time
With the company seemingly on an upward swing and ots value at new highs, there has been a belief throughout the entertainment industry that WWE could be sold around the same time as they agree to new television deals in 2023 for their popular weekly shows WWE Raw and Smackdown Live.
Why a WWE sale soon is possible
In January, Vince McMahon made a surprise return to the company and used his power as the largest holder of shares in the company to install himself as the new chairman of the board of directors. With the alleged intent of leading negotiations for a new media rights deal and looking at “strategic alternatives” — ie; a possible sale — of the company.
Since then, a firm has been officially assigned to begin the process of reviewing possible contenders to purchase the sports entertainment giant. With that in mind, here are the six top contenders to eventually win a WWE sale bid.
Disney has been snapping up major brands for the last decade. They purchased Marvel Studios and the rights to the Star Wars franchise. Turning them both into billion-dollar cash machines. The company also bout 21st Century Fox and all the toys and studios that come with it.
With WWE being the closest thing to real-life superheroes, their content would be a good fit for the corporation’s streaming giant Disney+. WWE content could also be an added boost to an already diverse portfolio in their other streaming service Hulu. New CEO Nick Khan also reportedly met with Disney execs recently in Los Angeles.
Comcast, the third richest media company in the world, is similar to Disney in that it has various ways it can make the most of WWE branding beyond just its broadcast platforms NBC and the Peacock. However, owning the company instead of having to get into a bidding war for television deals would be far easier in the future.
Comcast and WWE already have a strong relationship after a deal was struck to move the WWE Network to Peacock as an exclusive part of the streaming service. That connection could expand after Sports Business Journal reported in December that NBC Universal’s parent company might outright purchase WWE during upcoming negotiations to extend the relationship they have already built.
Saudi Arabia Public Investment Funds
The professional wrestling world was turned on its head when rumors spread through the industry and WWE that the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund — an arm of the Saudi government — had come to terms on a deal to buy the company. Eventually, that was disproved, but they are believed to still be very much in the running.
The Saudi PIF already owns LIV Golf and a portion of Premier League club Newcastle United as they attempt to make inroads into Western culture. While they have the money to make the largest bid, the backlash to the kingdom’s human rights violations could cause issues in securing a top-shelf media rights deal.
Endeavor, the owners of the UFC, are rumored to be a serious contender to buy WWE. The move would certainly fit the mold of previous purchases by the entertainment goliath and their CEO Ari Emanuel has previously shown interest in the company if it went up for sale.
Endeavor already has strong connections with ESPN, since the UFC airs much of its content on ESPN’s networks and streaming service ESPN+. Meaning a deal is strengthened by a possible media rights agreement with ESPN being packaged in a sale.
FOX is already a current broadcast partner with the WWE, airing episodes of Smackdown on Friday nights. They would love to own their most successful television product in the NFL. That is not an option. However, owning the year-round content-creating machine that is WWE makes a lot of sense. Owning instead of working with is where the real money is.
Owning WWE would really help in turning the FOX Now app into something that people actually care about and would give the company the controllable entertainment producer it is severely lacking.
Jeff Bezos and Amazon Prime
Jeff Bezos, the space-traveling uber-billionaire owner of Amazon, may know very little about WWE and who either Bianca Belair or Roman Reigns are. However, there is no doubt he and his minions know how absurdly strong the organization’s brand is all over the world. With Amazon Prime continuing to work to be a major force in the streaming business, the second-richest man in the world is sure to see how beneficial WWE content could be in furthering that goal.
With the organization’s TV contracts coming due soon, now may be the perfect time to snap up one of the most consistent and reliable money-making brands on Earth and throw it on Amazon Prime.