WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan spoke to Sports Business Journal recently. The makeover the company’s received during Khan’s year-and-a-half on the job was the main focus of John Ourand’s piece.
The former sports entertainment agent doesn’t go into detail about specific changes, and he certainly doesn’t name names. But his general explanation fits with what we know of the mandate WWE CEO & Chairman Vince McMahon gave Khan when he was hired — put the finishing touches on McMahon’s transformation of his father’s pro wrestling territory into a worldwide entertainment empire.
“If it once was a mom-and-pop shop, Vince certainly didn’t believe it was anymore. Part of what I believe he was looking for in bringing in someone from the outside was to make sure the community at large didn’t treat it that way. We believe we’re a global content company.”
While many in the wrestling community seem to believe Khan is the architect of what’s happened at WWE since he was hired in Aug. 2020, he’s careful to mention his boss in most of the quotes to SBJ. Even though he determined that the company’s “business attitude” needed changing, it was because that attitude didn’t align with McMahon’s vision:
“Vince believed that WWE was at a place where it had earned a seat at the adult table, but others in the company didn’t see it that way.”
Ourand covers the background of new executive hires WWE’s made lately: four from global sports streamer DAZN, three from Khan’s former employer CAA, and others from FOX, ESPN, HBO & Showtime. Moves like those — and ones that are more visible to the company’s audience like moving domestic streaming to Peacock, and partnering with major producers like Bill Simmons, Blumhouse, and A&E for projects based on WWE intellectual property — are cited as evidence of Khan upgrading the organization to succeed in the larger media marketplace.
“For the company to be treated the way that Vince, [Chief Brand Officer] Stephanie [McMahon-Levesque], [Executive Producer & Chief, Global Television Distribution] Kevin Dunn and myself and others believed it should be treated in the community, you needed executives who reflected that, who had range, who could get people on the phone and who could be taken seriously by their peers...
“We want to be in business with everybody who is a real player in this business. Understanding the business — where it’s at and where it’s heading — is a key part to all of this.”
Other moves, like announcing their event schedule a year in advance, moving more shows into stadiums, and several to Saturdays, are part of Khan’s strategy to maximize gate revenue:
“Obviously, this is a huge opportunity to grow revenue in the live events business.”
One thing Ourand’s article says Khan isn’t looking to do? Sell WWE.
Khan said the company has taken some inbound calls from companies looking to buy. But he stressed that WWE is not in active conversations trying to sell the company and is not actively looking to sell.
It’s probably not something that will change many people’s minds about Nick Khan or the company he’s helping to lead, but it’s an interesting read for future conversations on those topics.
Check it out here.