Report: Vince McMahon Plans to Sell WWE Before Agreeing To New TV Rights Contracts

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 9, 2023

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 08:  WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks at a news conference announcing the WWE Network at the 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The network will launch on February 24, 2014 as the first-ever 24/7 streaming network, offering both scheduled programs and video on demand. The USD 9.99 per month subscription will include access to all 12 live WWE pay-per-view events each year. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 10 and is expected to feature 3,200 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 150,000 attendees.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In the wake of Vince McMahon returning to WWE's board of directors last week, there are reportedly plans in place to sell the company in the near future.

According to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Felix Upton of Ringside News), higher-ups within WWE want a sale to occur before negotiations for new television rights deals begin.

WWE's TV contracts with NBCUniversal and Fox expire at the end of 2024, meaning talks focused on television rights deals would almost certainly begin this year.

The 77-year-old McMahon retired in July amid an investigation by the WWE board of directors that found he paid millions of dollars to multiple women in an effort to secure their silence regarding sexual encounters they had with him, as well as allegations of sexual misconduct in some cases.

McMahon vacated the roles of chairman, CEO and WWE head of creative, but he remains the controlling stakeholder in the company.

That position allowed him to return to WWE, and it became official Friday when a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed that McMahon and former WWE co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson joined the board, while three existing members were removed:

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>

Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics later tweeted copies of letters exchanged between McMahon and the WWE board of directors in December.

McMahon expressed his desire to return as executive chairman, the board opposed it, and McMahon then made it clear that he would not approve any TV rights deals without being permitted to rejoin the board:

Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston

Vince's December 20 letter to WWE's board, writing he wants to comeback as executive chairman.<br><br>"Stephanie, Nick, Paul, and the rest of the<br>management team have my full and unconditional support..." <a href="https://t.co/774gt3v74g">pic.twitter.com/774gt3v74g</a>

Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston

Reposting WWE's Board's December 27 email to Vince. <a href="https://t.co/dm41qFknO3">pic.twitter.com/dm41qFknO3</a>

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>

Before McMahon's official return, Lauren Thomas of the Wall Street Journal reported that the main motivation behind McMahon wanting to return was to facilitate a sale of WWE.

While neither McMahon nor WWE as a whole have confirmed a desire to sell, McMahon said in a statement that he felt it was important for the majority shareholder to have a hand in TV rights negotiations.

On Saturday, CNBC's Alex Sherman reported that WWE hired investment banking company JPMorgan to provide advice on a potential sale.

Sherman added that Comcast, Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Amazon, UFC owner Endeavor Group Holdings and Formula One owner Liberty Media are all expected to be in the mix as possible buyers.

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