A new profile on AEW President Tony Khan in Forbes is a pretty typical “business writer who hasn’t watched wrestling since he was a kid writes about wrestling” thing.
Those are always a good reminder of the industry is viewed outside of our little internet bubble. And this one comes with some great photos!
There’s also a few things here for folks objectively observing TK’s corporate strategy, and for folks on both sides of the 21st century’s “wrestling war” (something the business press seems to know there’s a market for, because Forbes’ “Billionaires” beat writer Hank Tucker leans into it throughout the piece).
Start with this quote from Khan’s father Shad, the billionaire auto parts magnate who owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and English football club Fulham, about his reaction to Tony’s dream of starting a pro wrestling promotion:
“I absolutely didn’t think this was a good idea,” the elder Khan says. “But I told Tony, ‘Look, when I’m dead and gone, I’m going to be leaving you and your sister a lot of money. Why don’t you blow some of that while I’m alive?’”
I wish Shad Khan was my dad.
Beyond that, the article puts an exact dollar figure on what AEW made from their television contract in 2020 - $43.75 million.
Tucker mentions that “AEW’s pay-per-view numbers and ticket sales are growing,” and the addition of Rampage to the TNT/TBS line-up will bring in more money from WarnerMedia. It’s still not enough to make the overall company profitable, though. Khan says the “wrestling division” will be in the black, but AEW won’t be this year due to “an eight-figure investment in video game development”.
Is spending tens of millions of dollars to launch video games a smart play? I can see argument for and against, and the winner of that debate will depend will depend on what AEW gets for those eight-figures.
For now, the television rights fees, and his father’s reported $100 million investment, makes it an acceptable risk for Tony Khan.