The Rock, RedBird Capital's Purchase of XFL Approved by Bankruptcy Court

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2020

Actor Dwayne Johnson poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Jumanji The Next Level', in central London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Joel C Ryan/Associated Press

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, business partner Dany Garcia and the RedBird Capital Partners investment firm will take control of the XFL from WWE chairman Vince McMahon later this month after their purchase of the league was approved Friday by a Delaware bankruptcy court.

ESPN's Kevin Seifert reported U.S. district judge Laurie Silverstein cleared the sale after the XFL and the court's unsecured creditor's committee resolved issues related to the $15 million sale price.

The XFL enjoyed initial success, including an average of 3.12 million viewers for its Week 1 games, but the numbers declined over the next four weeks before the remainder of the season was canceled in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alpha Entertainment, a company founded by McMahon to run the league, declared bankruptcy in April.

The group led by Johnson and Garcia submitted the only qualified bid during the sale process, which led the XFL to cancel an auction planned for Monday, per Seifert.

Garcia told Dan Gartland of Sports Illustrated there are hurdles to overcome related to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to relaunch the league, but she's planning to quickly add teams in more markets:

"Expansion. Expansion and more storytelling. Storytelling that lives in a 365-day way, we're talking 24/7. Those five weeks that the league had made an impact. Engagement was incredible on social media. The TV ratings spiked and then they settled where they should have and then they were really starting to get entrenched and they had wonderful attendance. That engagement is an opportunity for that to happen all year round even though that live aspect will be in a specific period of time. I think that's an incredible thing. I think it would be an incredible thing to see even more teams added. There's a lot out there."

In a separate interview with Yahoo Sports' Shalise Manza Young, she explained the XFL is hoping to play in 2021, potentially using the "bubble" environment being used by the NBA and NHL:

"What we do have in our back pocket is scenarios where we do go in 2021 and 2022. We have eight teams so we do have the ability to bubble. We're really looking at that. I think the audience is getting used to not having fans, fan sounds, as odd as it is, it seems to be working, obviously if that bodes well I think there's a case for 2021 but we're going to be figuring that out.

"It's about the safety of the players, really making sure we can have the players safe and have a level of play that is still high quality. I would love to see it happen in 2021 but we are taking our time."

Johnson, a former college football player who worked for McMahon during his time as a WWE Superstar, said in an Instagram post his goal is to "create something special for the fans."

"My dreams of playing professional football never came true, however—this passion venture allows me to create opportunities for other players to showcase their talents, take care of their families and make their own dreams come true," he wrote.

The XFL's first iteration lasted a single season in 2001. The rebuilt brand focused more on standard football rather than gimmicks and created several ideas, including reworked kickoff rules and various options to score additional points after a touchdown, that were met with acclaim.