More notes on WWE sale rumors

Jan 13, 2023 - by Marc Middleton

As noted, CNBC reported on Thursday evening that AEW President Tony Khan and his father, AEW lead investor Shad Khan, are interested in potentially buying WWE. It was noted that the idea of WWE merging with AEW is a long shot, and that AEW has not had any talks with WWE officials.

Barron’s, a publication of The Wall Street Journal, added that AEW is also in the running to potentially buy WWE, but the Khans wouldn’t go into the deal alone.

“All Elite Wrestling—the top rival to WWE ,led by Tony Khan and family—is in the pool of potential buyers for WWE, a person close to the potential transaction told Barron’s, adding that the Khans will likely look for a financial partner to acquire the asset,” the report stated.

It’s been reported that many contenders are in the running to buy WWE, including Endeavor, Disney, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Comcast, and perhaps a group led by AEW’s Khan family, as mentioned above. It was also noted that the front-runner seems to be the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which could be the only way for WWE to stay private, and keep McMahon in control. However, sources within WWE are saying that the Saudis are not the favorite, but they are in the running.

It was also noted that WWE will likely fetch top dollar, with the sale price hopefully being in the range of $8.5 billion dollars, which is more than double of what Endeavor bought UFC for in 2016. WWE is looking to sell the company by mid-2023, but there is no guarantee it will be sold.

“We think… market consideration related to the value of live content creates an optimal setting for an acquisition attempt,” wrote Benchmark’s Mike Hickey, who believes WWE could fetch more than $105 per share, which implies a 46% gain from the closing price on January 5, before McMahon said he wanted to return.

Guggenheim analyst Curry Baker also writes that WWE could command somewhere in the $100 to $110 per share range. After news of a potential sale emerged, Baker labeled WWE stock his best idea, rating it at Buy with a target of $94 for the price. 

Barron’s notes that this range makes sense as a price of around $102 would value the company at 22 times the $410.4 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization WWE is expected to record in fiscal year 2023.

“We think that now is the time to Buy WWE,” Hickey previously wrote. “Business momentum is strong, and future growth prospects appear promising.”

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has not been working out of the offices at WWE HQ since he returned to the company last week. He also has not been present for any of the WWE TV tapings since then, according to multiple sources.

It was noted by the Wrestling Observer that before the recent corporate shakeups within WWE, new WWE CEO Nick Khan worked as a “buffer” who kept things smooth between Vince and Stephanie McMahon, and between Vince and current WWE Chief Content Officer Triple H. This was due to reported issues between Vince and his family members in working together.

Since the recent shakeups, word is that Khan is the man running the company as the sole CEO, and right now he is making all final decisions. Vince, as Chairman in an official capacity, is only working on selling the company and media rights deals. The current RAW and SmackDown TV deals are up at the end of September 2024.

Stephanie resigned as WWE Chairwoman and Co-CEO this week. Those close to the situation within WWE have tried to present her decision to leave as being related to her leave of absence from 2022, in the sense that she reevaluated her life after Triple H’s heart condition, and wanted to focus on raising her three daughters, and was wealthy enough that money would never be a concern. Stephanie ended up coming back from that leave of absence, when the Vince scandal was ramping up, but this resignation was different as she also left the Board of Directors and cut all ties with the company she’s been with since she was a teenager.

The Saudis and their PIF were heavily rumored to buy WWE on Tuesday night, but Ariel Helwani and TMZ Sports dismissed the rumors on Wednesday morning. The Observer reports that the rumors led to concern among WWE talents, including those who were working the WWE NXT TV tapings that night in Orlando. It was noted that the mood was said to be very depressing as word of the rumors got around the taping, with many believing the story was true due to the online buzz and frenzy.

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