Last night and into this morning (Jan. 10-11), Wrestling Twitter doomscrolled like few have doomscrolled before. Numerous scoopsters posted bulging eye emojis and some variation of “BIG NEWS IMMINENT”, followed by a handful saying that WWE was being sold to the Saudi Public Investment Fund and would become a private company again.
It seemed to be too nuts to be true, yet make complete sense at the same time. Vince McMahon is in the process of reclaiming his company after spending almost six months on the sidelines ensuring his various constituents didn’t care that much about the various sexual misconduct allegations against him, and the off-the-books hush money payments he made to the women making those allegations. The company’s co-CEO, and his daughter, had just resigned as he was voted Chairman of the Board he’d already reshaped in the first stage of his comeback plan.
Whether Stephanie McMahon’s exit was due to the reason stated in the press releases (she only returned to the company while it was in crisis. Now that its true leader, her dad, has returned, she’ll get back to her own sabbatical), it was her punishment for a failed coup, or because the Saudis wouldn’t want to own a company with a female Chief Executive... it fit with the sale story.
Vince’s stated reason for returning is to ensure shareholder revenue is maximized in a sale, and it was easy to imagine Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud & his cronies offer being much more than WWE’s current share price (some of the pundits reporting the sale claimed they heard the Saudi’s were overpaying). Being privately owned could also accomplish what are believed to be McMahon’s unstated goals: allowing him to take over all his old jobs, including creative, and eliminating or greatly reducing the amount of oversight he has to deal with while running a company with scandal still looming.
Problem is? As Jonathan Frakes would say, not this time — it’s false.
Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful tweeted about the rumors and talked about them on a podcast, but was among the first to say he couldn’t confirm the reports and that, “there could be a real, real possibility that nothing is happening.”
This morning, many others are going on record to say the possibility SRS spoke of is the reality:
Contrary to reports stating otherwise last night, there is no deal in place at this precise moment for WWE to be sold to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund or any entity, sources say.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 11, 2023
The organization is still exploring all options, I’m told. Developing.
I concur with @RichLightShed. I asked someone at WWE, who would know, who said the story that took hold of Twitter last night, about WWE and Saudi Arabia being near a deal to take the company private, is untrue.— Brandon Thurston (@BrandonThurston) January 11, 2023
Well, finally got something much more firm.— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) January 11, 2023
A high-ranking #WWE source with knowledge of the situation tells me reports of a sale or agreement to sell at this moment are “completely false.”
None of this is to say the folks reporting the sale last night were completely making the story up. Many analysts have mentioned the Saudi PIF on lists of possible buyers. WWE and the KSA are probably in a continuous dialogue thanks to their existing relationship, and the sale has most likely come up in those conversations. Negotiations over deals the size of this one are roller coaster rides; someone may have prematurely leaked that a deal was done to gauge reaction, or for any of the other reasons people anonymously go to the media.
It also doesn’t mean it won’t eventually happen. Most of the people pumping the brakes include caveats like “at this time”. Some, like Cassidy Haynes of bodyslam.net, are still saying “a deal has been agreed to in principle” between WWE and the Saudis, but that the process of getting that deal approved has a long way to go.
We shall see. It’s definitely going to be a very interesting year in pro wrestling, one with the potential to radically alter the business from every perspective. But for the next few hours at least, you’re probably safe to stop doomscrolling.