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WWE CEO Nick Khan Says Vince McMahon Is Ready to Sell Company: 'The Timing Is Now'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 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

WWE CEO Nick Khan said this week that WWE chairman Vince McMahon believes the time is right to sell the company.

Appearing on the Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t Subhojeet Mukherjee of ThirstyForNews.com), Khan suggested that McMahon doesn't feel the need to keep building on the "empire" he has already created with WWE: "I think he's ready. I can't describe it as anything more than that after the last five months. Keep in mind, you [Simmons] engage in empire building, you're still engaged in empire building. At a certain point, it's like, how much of this empire am I going to build?"

Khan also explained that the timing is ideal with WWE's massive television rights contracts expiring in October 2024, which allows WWE to use that as part of its sales negotiations:

"In looking at a world of consolidation, the standalone enterprise that owns 99 percent of its intellectual property with the media rights coming up in October 2024, which means the process starts in a few months on that, to certainly go lock in a bunch of long-term deals, and then to try to sell to everybody doesn't make sense. The timing is now. That's the goal, unless one of the media conglomerates ends up buying it directly, then they certainly wouldn't want it encumbered by any long-term media rights deals elsewhere."

McMahon, 77, retired from his roles as chairman, CEO and head of creative in July following a WWE board of directors investigation that found he paid millions of dollars to multiple women in exchange for their silence about sexual relationships with him, as well as sexual misconduct allegations in some cases.

Khan was promoted from president to co-CEO following McMahon's retirement, sharing the CEO role with McMahon's daughter, Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie was also made chairwoman, and her husband Triple H became the new chief content officer.

Vince returned to the board two weeks ago, and he was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the board last week. In lockstep with that move, Stephanie resigned from her positions as chairwoman and co-CEO.

After McMahon returned to WWE's board of directors, CNBC's Alex Sherman reported that WWE hired investment banking company JPMorgan as an adviser in sales talks with hopes of selling the company within the next three to six months.

Sherman named Comcast, Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Amazon, UFC owner Endeavor Group Holdings and Formula One owner Liberty Media as potential buyers.

McMahon's grandfather and father founded the forerunner to WWE in 1953, and his father sold it to him in 1982, meaning it has always been under the control of the McMahon family.

Taking WWE public in 1999 changed the dynamics, but McMahon remains the controlling stakeholder, which is why he was able to get himself back into power and in position to negotiate a sale.

WWE is more valuable than ever before, and the pieces are in place to maximize profit on a sale. Khan's comments suggest McMahon is well aware of those facts.

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