Report: WWE Doesn't Have Deal to Sell to Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 11, 2023

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 11:  WWE logos are shown on screens before a WWE news conference at T-Mobile Arena on October 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was announced that WWE wrestler Braun Strowman will face heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury and WWE champion Brock Lesnar will take on former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez at the WWE's Crown Jewel event at Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 31.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Despite rumors making the rounds on social media late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, there is reportedly not a deal in place to sell WWE to Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

According to combat sports insider Ariel Helwani, sources are saying WWE has not agreed to sell to Saudi Arabia or any other entity and the company is "still exploring all options."

In a since-deleted tweet, Steven Muehlhausen of DAZN reported Tuesday that WWE had been sold to Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and that it would revert to being a private company rather than a publicly traded one.

Cassidy Haynes of BodySlam.net later reported that while WWE and Saudi Arabia have agreed to a deal in principle, it hasn't been finalized.

Like Helwani, Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics disputed reports of a sale, noting that someone in WWE "who would know" told him the Saudi Arabia rumors are untrue.

Rumors of an imminent WWE sale kicked into overdrive last week when Vince McMahon returned to the company as part of the board of directors.

McMahon had retired in July from his positions as WWE chairman, CEO and head of creative after a WWE board of directors investigation found that he paid millions of dollars to multiple women in exchange for their silence on sexual relationships with him, as well as allegations of sexual misconduct in some cases.

Before McMahon's return became official, Lauren Thomas of the Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon was planning a WWE comeback in order to play a role in the potential sale of the company.

McMahon, who is the controlling shareholder in WWE, has not said publicly that he wants to sell, but he did release a statement after being reinstated to the board of directors noting that he felt it was important to have a hand in WWE's television rights negotiations.

WWE's TV deals with NBCUniversal and Fox run through 2024, meaning new deals are likely to be discussed this year.

CNBC's Alex Sherman furthered rumors of a potential sale last week when he reported that WWE hired investment banking company JPMorgan to advise it in sale discussions.

Sherman listed Comcast, Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Amazon, UFC owner Endeavor Group Holdings and Formula One owner Liberty Media as companies who could have interest.

Aside from the sale rumors, Tuesday was a newsworthy day for WWE since McMahon was unanimously voted in as executive chairman, while his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, resigned from the co-CEO role she took on after her father's retirement.

Those moves helped fuel speculation of a sale, but there remains no concrete evidence that any deal is done or even agreed upon.

WWE first entered into a business arrangement with Saudi Arabia in 2018 and later agreed to hold two major events in the country every year through 2027.

The agreement has been a lucrative one for WWE, as each Saudi Arabia event nets WWE between $50 million and $55 million, per Thurston.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sports teams and leagues in recent years, leading to accusations of "sportswashing," which is the act of using sports to distract from bigger issues, such as Saudi Arabia's history of human rights violations.

In addition to owning PGA Tour competitor LIV Golf, the Saudi Public Investment Fund owns 80 percent of English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, and the country of Saudi Arabia has hosted several significant sporting events.

WWE would be a huge addition to the Public Investment Fund's portfolio, but it appears all reports of a deal being in place were premature.

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