WWE has reportedly hired investment banking company JPMorgan to advise in its search for a potential buyer.
According to CNBC's Alex Sherman, any sale of WWE following the enlistment of JPMorgan would likely occur within the next three to six months, which is when negotiations will begin for new television rights deals.
WWE's current rights contracts with NBCUniversal for Raw and Fox for SmackDown will expire at the end of 2024.
On Friday, WWE announced through a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that former chairman and CEO Vince McMahon had returned to the company as part of the board of directors:
Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston
Vince McMahon is back on WWE's board of directors. <br><br>A new filing says effective immediately Vince puts himself, Michelle Wilson, and George Barrios on the board and removes independent directors Alan Wexler, JoEllen Lyons Dillon, and Jeffrey Speed.<a href="https://t.co/HGzFZNvaXM">https://t.co/HGzFZNvaXM</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y3HIRGearx">pic.twitter.com/Y3HIRGearx</a>
McMahon, who is the controlling stakeholder in WWE, retired from his roles in July after the WWE board of directors found in an investigation that McMahon paid multiple women millions of dollars in exchange for not disclosing information about sexual relationships and encounters with him, and even alleged sexual misconduct in some cases.
When McMahon retired, Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan were elevated to co-CEOs, and Stephanie also took over as chairwoman. Additionally, Triple H was named the new head of creative for WWE.
Lauren Thomas of the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that McMahon returned to the company to have a say in the television rights and potential sale negotiations.
WWE has yet to publicly confirm that it is looking to sell, but McMahon said in a statement that he felt it was important for the controlling stakeholder to have a hand in TV rights talks in order to land the best possible deal:
"WWE is entering a critical juncture in its history with the upcoming media rights negotiations coinciding with increased industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and with more companies seeking to own the intellectual property on their platforms. The only way for WWE to fully capitalize on this opportunity is for me to return as executive chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder."
Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics tweeted correspondence between McMahon and the WWE board of directors from December that featured McMahon asking to return to the board and the board insisting it was against the move.
In response, McMahon made it clear that he would not approve any TV rights deals if he was not placed back on the board of directors:
Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston
Vince's December 31 email writing back to the Board, unhappy with their response.<br><br>"...unless I have direct involvement and input as Executive Chairman from the outset, I will not be able to support or approve any media rights deals or strategic transaction..." <a href="https://t.co/JR0sxpV05b">pic.twitter.com/JR0sxpV05b</a>
Per Sherman, several companies are believed to be suitors for a WWE purchase, including Comcast, Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Amazon, UFC owner Endeavor Group Holdings and Formula One owner Liberty Media.
The forerunner to WWE, the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, was founded by McMahon's father Vincent J. McMahon and grandfather Jess McMahon in 1953.
It eventually became known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation and then the World Wrestling Federation, before the name was changed to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002.
Vincent K. McMahon bought WWE from his father in 1982, and he turned it into a global powerhouse, even taking it public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999.
Although WWE has been a family company since its inception, it may soon have a controlling owner who is not part of the McMahon family for the first time ever.
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