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Wrestling Federation Buys Rival

From Reuters

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. on Friday said it is buying World Championship Wrestling from Turner Broadcasting System Inc., creating a tag-team franchise that has housed the Rock and Hulk Hogan.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but analysts estimate that WCW lost about $80 million last year. Shares of WWFE closed down 1 cent at $12.10 on the New York Stock Exchange, off more than 40% from a high of $21.59 in late January.

The purchase comes after a deal between AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting and Fusient Media Ventures for the WCW unit that was struck in January fell apart, a World Wrestling Federation spokesman said.

A Turner spokesman said professional wrestling doesn’t fit the network’s current direction and the company thought it was the best time to part ways. He and WWF declined to comment on the Fusient deal.

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The deal gives WWF global rights to the WCW brand, tape library and other intellectual-property rights. The WCW franchise includes “WCW Monday Nitro Live"--one of the top programs on cable television--home video, pay-per-view, Internet and live tours.

“This acquisition is the perfect creative and business catalyst for our company. This is a dream combination for fans of sports entertainment,” said Linda McMahon, chief executive of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, home to stars such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Chyna, and creator of the new professional football league XFL.

New WCW programming is expected to air on TNN in the future to keep with the franchise’s strategic alliance with Viacom Inc. “There was some speculation that [WWF] would be buying the talent and not all of it, but selectively being able to choose among the talent so they could completely restructure the franchise,” said Legg Mason analyst Breck Wheeler.

Some of the WCW performers will come over to WWF as part of the deal. Discussions are in progress with other WCW performers about who will move to WWF and who will stay with WCW, a WWF spokesman said.


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