Earlier today, Vince McMahon issued a press release outlining the beginning steps of his plot to reclaim his spot as Executive Chairman of WWE. His plan is consistent with the Wall Street Journal’s latest reporting on the matter.
On the surface, Vince’s power play involves facilitating a company sale to increase shareholder value. In some ways, though, his words read like a threat to hold up some of WWE’s upcoming major business deals if the Board of Directors doesn’t approve his request to be put back in charge. Speaking of that Board, Vince plans to elect his own hand-picked people to the Board, including himself, in order to strengthen his leverage and position in this fight.
I’m no expert on the nuances of this subject matter, but thankfully Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston has chimed in on the matter. He talked about the situation on YouTube, suggesting that Vince leaning into a company sale is a way to counteract the idea that he is too risky to bring back into the company following last year’s hush money investigation. Thurston responded to WWE’s rising stock price today with the following:
“This is probably driven by the notion that, okay, he says he wants to get back in so he can make a sale. And that’s good for the stock price. Because now [he] can say, ‘I’m not just trying to get back into the company because I love control and I want to be in charge of the company again, but I’m getting back in the company because I’m doing something that’s really good for shareholders, that is driving up shareholder value, by talking about I want to be the leader of selling this company.’ And that is his way back in, if he’s going to do something to offset what will be perceived as the risk associated with him coming back into the company and being an executive in the company again.”
If you want a reminder as to some of the risks WWE takes on with a potential return of McMahon, Thurston touches on two ongoing stories of alleged sexual misconduct:
“It was reported that Rita Chatterton, who worked as a referee in the 80’s for WWE, who alleges that Vince McMahon raped her, she’s looking for a settlement because of New York state’s recent law change. People who claim to be victims of sexual assault are able to file civil lawsuits. Likewise in California, where the Wall Street Journal also reported that in 2011 there is another allegation of sexual misconduct against Vince McMahon related to someone he encountered in a spa in California.”
If Vince comes back to power in WWE, that opens the door for a world of trouble for the company, which is presumably why the Board unanimously voted down his initial request to return to power last month.
“If he comes back, does that reinvigorate SEC scrutiny? Are there investigations that could happen that would get WWE, the company, in trouble?”
“After he announced that he was leaving the company, the Wall Street Journal reported that...there were government inquiries, there were investigations, there were filings that WWE published that alluded to subpoenas. So it sounds like there was a lot of federal government scrutiny...maybe him coming back reinvigorates investigations? That could harm WWE’s brand value.”
Stephanie McMahon recently acknowledged that Vince’s disgraceful resignation did hurt WWE’s advertising dollars in 2022.
“Stephanie McMahon in the most recent earnings call...said there was a ‘pause’ on advertisers’ willingness to buy ad space with WWE because of the news surrounding Vince. So there’s risk there.”
The networks and platforms bidding over WWE’s TV rights might hold a lot of sway here. If they are not willing to do business with Vince in charge over concerns about losing sponsors, McMahon’s claim that his return is good for shareholders quickly falls apart:
“Ultimately, this will be up to NBCUniversal and FOX, and perhaps whoever else would be interested in their rights, maybe Amazon, are the ones who wield a lot of power here. Because they’re the ones who really hold the keys to WWE’s value, because so much of [WWE’s] value is consolidated in one revenue stream, which is live TV rights fees.”
Even with all that risk explained, Thurston thinks Vince is more likely than not to successfully return to power in WWE. And he might just be willing to burn it all down in order to win this fight:
“I would lean towards expecting him to come back. I was more hesitant [several weeks ago], but I just don’t see what would stop him. My impression is that there isn’t an article in the Wall Street Journal, sourced the way it is, unless he’s really going to do this...and I just don’t see what the legal hurdles are that would really prevent him from doing this.”
“I think Vince wants to be in control, and any situation where Vince isn’t in control is not what he wants. And he’s willing to burn down his own house to make it happen.”
Now that you’ve had more time to digest this Vince McMahon bombshell news, where do you think this story is headed next? Let us know in the comments below, Cagesiders.