WWE: Has the franchise been sold to the Saudis?

Stephanie McMahon quit her jobs as co-CEO and chairwoman of WWE on Tuesday.

The WWE has been even more chaotic this week than a Friday Night SmackDown. There are rumours that the company may soon be sold to a Saudi Arabian company or that it has already been sold secretly. In addition, Stephanie McMahon, Co-CEO and Chairwoman, left the company.

This week, it was announced that Vince McMahon, along with former co-presidents and directors Michelle Wilson and George Barrios, would return to the WWE board. But unfortunately, two board members would have to step down for this to happen.

McMahon told ESPN that he is thinking about selling the business as the company’s largest shareholder.

A first domino

Since he retired in July 2022, his daughter Stephanie McMahon has been co-CEO with Kick Kahn.

McMahon wrote that she would step down as chairwoman and co-CEO on Tuesday and was “confident” that WWE was in the right place to keep making creative content that was better than anything else and give shareholders the most money possible.

Soon after she wrote her goodbye letter, Twitter was full of rumours that McMahon planned to sell the company to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. This would make the company private, according to Deadspin and wrestling site BodySlam.net.

This week, Front Office Sports said that the PIF wanted to buy the WWE and that some “sources” said the deal was already done.

WWE has been putting on shows in Saudi Arabia since 2014 when it started working with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority. Since 2018, WWE has also been putting on special events there.

The same company owns the LIV Golf League and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund.

If the deal between the WWE and PIF went through, it would raise questions about the Women’s Wrestling division and the country’s laws regarding what women can wear in public.

Vince McMahon returns

The Wall Street Journal says McMahon, who still owns most of WWE’s stock, said on Thursday that “he is electing himself and two former co-presidents and directors, George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, to the board.” However, according to reports, three of the current directors will have to leave in order to make room.

McMahon quit his job in the summer of 2022 after being accused of sexual misconduct. At the time, he was 77 years old. He is also said to have paid $19.6 million in non-disclosure agreement payments with his own money, but he didn’t list that as a personal expense.

This isn’t the first time that McMahon has tried to return. Last time he tried, the board turned him down. ESPN quoted a statement from McMahon in which he said that the WWE is at a critical point in its history. This is because the upcoming talks about media rights are happening simultaneously. The industry wants more high-quality content and live events, and more companies want to own the intellectual property on their platforms.

“My return,” he said next, “will show WWE and anyone else involved in a transaction that they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”

Since Vince McMahon retired, Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan have been co-CEOs of WWE. He may be fine with their leadership as long as he can leave the company on his terms. The WSJ says McMahon left his job last year because “people close to him told him it was a bad idea.”

Why did Vince McMahon quit his role last year?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that McMahon paid a former WWE paralegal to keep quiet about an affair. Later, it was said that McMahon had agreed to pay “more than $12 million over the past 16 years to hide claims of sexual misconduct and infidelity.”

Stephanie McMahon, her husband Paul “HHH” Levesque, and Nick Khan, who are on the WWE Board of Directors, asked the New York law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to look into the claims.

Vince McMahon quit as CEO, but he still had a lot of power over how WWE was run. Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics said McMahon would no longer be in charge of creative after he told everyone he was retiring. After that, Nick Khan, who was in charge of sales, and Stephanie took over as co-CEOs.

Now that Stephanie has left WWE, Khan is the only CEO of the company.

Has WWE been sold?

Several people in the wrestling world have said on social media that the Saudi sovereign fund has acquired the wrestling brand. Steven Muehlhausen, who handles social media for Pro Wrestling and DAZN, was one of the first people to tell people about the news.

As of Wednesday, January 11, there has been no official confirmation that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has bought WWE, but there is a lot of talks that this will happen soon.

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Before this week, Stephanie McMahon was Co-CEO and Chairwoman of WWE. She made a statement that started the story about the possible sale.

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