clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nick Khan on WWE sale, Vince McMahon creative role, going back to PPV, more

The Volume’s YouTube

The wrestling world has largely moved on to other concerns, but two weeks ago Endeavor announced plans to acquire a controlling stake in WWE, merge it with the UFC, and spin the two combat sports entertainment brands off as a new company. If the plan is approved by shareholders and regulators the McMahon family won’t have full control over WWE for the first time in its history.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Which is why the interview current WWE CEO Nick Kahn did with the subscription-only LightShed Live podcast that Post Wrestling unearthed is still news even though it was conducted ten days ago. Khan’s conversation with Brandon Ross & Rich Greenfield — two partners at media investment research firm Lightshed, which has been all over the WWE sale story before the company was even officially on the market — covers a wide-range of topics. Many of which have also been discussed on websites like this one over the past several months.

While discussing how the Endeavor deal came together, Khan specified again that Vince McMahon didn’t make a role in the post-acquisition company a requirement of the sale:

“Specifically, Ari asked Vince to stay on as the executive chairman. It was not an ask from Vince.”

He also addressed the always popular “is Vince running WWE creative” question:

“When this deal was officially announced, Monday morning, Vince sent out a company-wide email to our thousand or so employees, including myself. And in the email, he laid out the structure of the NewCo, which certainly you guys have read about and are familiar with.

“In addition to Vince being the Executive Chairman, Ari Emanuel being the CEO, Mark Shapiro being the President, Dana White continuing as President of UFC, and me at WWE — specifically Vince articulated that Paul Levesque [Triple H] remains the sole chief creative officer. Sole.

“So, how does it work? Does that mean because I’m technically in charge of the business side of the business that I don’t seek input from other people? Or I wouldn’t seek input from Vince McMahon, who created this entire empire? That would be a mistake on my behalf.

“Paul and Vince, have a family relationship, a relationship that stands back to the mid-90s. Paul’s in charge of creative. If he wants input from Vince or Vince has ideas then he and Paul are gonna communicate, that’s always gonna be the case.

“We’re lucky to have Vince. We’re lucky to have Paul in control of creative.”

He also touched on Triple H’s job security while answering a question about whether the usual cost-saving post-merger layoffs would impact the creative side of the business:

“What we want to always be protective of, our creative team, our production team, keep in mind none of us have anything to sell and the company would not have been transacted at this sort of price point if the product wasn’t great.

“So the most important thing is to leave the product untouched. Untouched, meaning if Triple H and Kevin Dunn, our longtime executive producer, want to evolve it, great. But in terms of cutbacks there, that’s not what we’re looking to do.

“So other efficiencies all around the company, we’re getting in the middle of, and let’s see how it shakes out.”

Asked if WWE could influence UFC to better compensate its fighters (and by implication, if the UFC model could lead to lower pay for wrestlers), Khan said WWE wouldn’t look to get involved in Dana White’s pay structure. He did indicate that whatever increased rights fees WWE secures for Raw, SmackDown & NXT’s next television contracts wouldn’t be passed on to talent, though:

“Well, look, in terms of the UFC’s business, that’s their business to manage. Vince, myself, Triple H, the other WWE senior management have seen what Dana White and [previous UFC owners] the Fertittas did in terms of creating an entire empire. We’ve then subsequently seen what Dana White and his team and Endeavor did. So, you know, that goes untouched by us. We’re not getting involved in any of that stuff.

“In terms of our performers. We think a lot of them are well compensated. Certainly, all talent wants to be paid more. Management wants to try to manage those costs. Each individual deal is unique in and of itself. We’re confident with our position in the marketplace in terms of our WWE Superstars.

“And depending on what the rights fee increases on the media rights, we expect a lot of that to drop to the bottom line.”

On those pending negotiations, Khan restated what he’s told others — FOX and NBCUniversal will get first crack at renewing their current deals, but he expects there to be more players if those talks don’t result in a deal:

“If we get out of the [exclusive negotiating] window [with the incumbants], we think the marketplace is going to be robust.”

Khan spoke about other oft-discussed revenue sources, like increased sponsorships:

“We’re open for business. Ring mat, ring apron, the turnbuckles, everything that can be sold, we want to explore selling it. Obviously, it needs to be the right product. It can’t be too distracting, but if it is the right relationship and the right company, we’re ready to go.”

And a possible return to a la carte pay-per-view sales of events fans currently get as part of their monthly Peacock/WWE Network subscription:

“We didn’t like traditional pay-per-view because 50% or so of the dollars go to in-demand dish and direct just for plugging it in, which is absurd, absurd. So getting out of that, going direct to consumer got around that.

“You see, even with the UFC’s ESPN+ deal, there’s no in-demand dish and direct. That money, however, UFC and Disney carve it up. It goes to them. They have their split, but there’s no middle person taking 50%.

“So might we consider going back to digital pay-per-view if it was accessible to our fan base and if it was price right? Of course we consider it.”

Lots to chew on. Let us know what you make of it in the comments below.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats