Vince McMahon wants $9 billion for his wrestling empire
Vince McMahon is looking to get as much as $9 billion in a potential sale of World Wrestling Entertainment, the company he returned to run this year, according to people familiar with his thinking.
The company has already received offers, said the people, who requested that they not be identified because the discussions are private. WWE declined to comment.
Shares of WWE rose as much as 4.9% to $91.48 Friday in New York. As of the close Thursday, the asking price was 37% greater than the company’s $6.5-billion market value. The stock has risen 30% this year, in part because of takeover speculation.
The list of potential buyers for the WWE includes Endeavor Group Holdings, the owner of Ultimate Fighting Championship, as well as investors from the Middle East who have already made major investments in golf and soccer. Endeavor would need financial help from a third party since its market capitalization of $10.4 billion is only a bit more than what McMahon wants, but the company has already shown it can integrate and grow a sports-media business with a divisive founder in the UFC.
WWE has survived and adapted to changing cultural trends because it embraced the audience’s feedback. Legacy on-air news shows need to do the same.
Saudi Arabia is starting to make major investments in media and entertainment, and has already expressed interest in buying Liberty Media’s Formula One. WWE Chief Executive Officer Nick Khan dismissed a report last month that the Saudis already had a deal to buy the company as “totally false.”
Larger strategic buyers, such as Netflix and Walt Disney, may be uneasy taking on a business controlled by McMahon that involves the sometimes messy personal lives of its wrestlers. McMahon learned the business from his father, an event promoter on the East Coast. He built the WWE into an international entertainment powerhouse that packs arenas and airs programs regularly on Fox and Comcast’s USA network.
WWE is in the early stages of negotiations for its next TV deals and could renew its current agreements with Fox and Comcast. Any media company interested in airing the programs could also use this moment to buy the whole business. WWE has been one of the most popular draws for Comcast’s Peacock streaming service.
Yet McMahon may not find many buyers eager to pay his price considering the shaky global economy and rising interest rates. A valuation of $9 billion amounts to about seven times the company’s $1.29 billion in sales last year, and 23 times its adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization, both at the high end for the entertainment industry.
Co-CEO and chairwoman of the board Stephanie McMahon resigned from World Wrestling Entertainment just days after her father, Vince McMahon, returned to the company.
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