Vince McMahon is ready to leave WWE if he sells the company, says CEO
World wrestling entertainment Executive Chairman Vince McMahon is ready to step down from the company “if it’s the right business”, according to WWE CEO Nick Khan.
Shares of the company closed more than 5% higher on Friday.
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McMahon’s potential future involvement with WWE became an early sticking point in preliminary talks with various buyers, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named as the talks are private.
McMahon is the majority shareholder of WWE. He has been developing the professional wrestling league’s creative storylines for decades, often participating in storytelling himself. Earlier this year, he stepped down as Chief Creative Officer, leaving the reins to his son-in-law, former WWE Superstar Paul “Triple H” Levesque. Khan became sole CEO in January when Levesque’s wife and McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, stepped down as co-CEOs.
“Vince has told the board that he is 100% open to transactions where he is not included in the future of the business,” Khan said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.
Vince McMahon attends a press conference at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images
McMahon stepped down as CEO in June amid allegations of sexual misconduct by former WWE employees. A month later, he announced he would be retiring from the wrestling business he bought from his father more than four decades ago. Last month, however, McMahon returned to the board to be directly involved in sales negotiations with potential buyers.
WWE hired financial advisors to go through a sale process, which Khan said would take about three months. Khan pointed out that WWE could tap into a major media company with a streaming platform that could grow subscribers by exclusively owning WWE’s monthly live events, as well as its historical library of past matches. .
“We think the market is strong for our product,” Khan said. “It’s basically their own sports league. Someone can buy it and put it on their platform.”
Potential buyers for WWE include Comcast, netflix, Freedom Media and Effortwho already owns UFC.
Khan acknowledged “it’s hard to take control” of McMahon, who has owned and run WWE (formerly WWF) for more than 40 years. Still, he reiterated that McMahon would prioritize shareholder value and walk away “if it’s the right deal – and we’ll look at all the factors that make it the right deal.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, owner of CNBC.