Vince McMahon reinserted himself onto WWE’s board of directors Friday, per an SEC filing.
The former chairman and CEO had laid out his plan to return to the company to set up WWE for a potential sale and to benefit shareholders. The board of directors were willing to work with McMahon but did not want him to return.
McMahon is the majority owner of WWE and his Class-B shares give him majority voting power in the company. He brought himself and former company presidents Michelle Wilson and George Barrios onto the board. The trio replaced JoEllen Lyons Dillon, Jeffrey R. Speed and Alan M. Wexler on the board, per SEC filing. Ignace Lahoud and Man Jit Singh resigned from the board, per Post Wrestling’s John Pollock.
Vince’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon, remains the chairwoman of the company and co-CEO along with Nick Khan, and her husband, Paul Levesque, aka Triple H, remains in his role as chief content officer. Vince McMahon sent a letter on Dec. 20 stating he supported the three in their current positions.
McMahon resigned on July 22 following a hush-money scandal that was investigated by the board and is being investigated by the SEC as of Friday. The Wall Street Journal revealed on Dec. 13 that Rita Chatterton, WWE’s first female referee, and a former spa owner had filed a civil lawsuit against McMahon over sexual assault allegations. The 77-year-old has not acknowledged or expressed remorse over his accusations.
WWE reportedly planned on holding an all-employee meeting after McMahon’s made his return to the company official Friday morning, according to Pollack.
“The Company intends to undertake a review of its strategic alternatives with the goal being to maximize value for all WWE shareholders,” WWE said in a press release, per Pollock. “There is no assurance that this process will result in a transaction.”
The last point is the biggest question regarding McMahon’s return to the board of directors. Is WWE actually going to sell?
McMahon’s status as majority owner and his majority voting power means he must approve of any sale. His reinsertion into the board also includes his power to approve of any media rights deal. WWE is in the middle of renegotiating its media rights deals with NBC Universal and FOX.
The question regarding a sale is how much McMahon’s sexual assault allegations matter to a purchase. WWE could go the Endeavor and UFC route, where the former bought the latter’s parent company, Zuffa, but kept Dana White as president.
McMahon’s return likely means he wants control, but Endeavor’s stock has fallen since a video of White slapping his wife at a nightclub on New Year’s Eve emerged. McMahon’s alleged actions potentially could create bad public relations if he were to remain in charge after a sale.
But WWE’s stock has increased by 22% as of 11:20 a.m. ET after McMahon’s reinsertion Friday. What the market’s view of McMahon’s return is up in the air, so it’s unknown how much of an impact the 77-year-old’s previous allegations and investigations would impact a potential sale.
The company has a market cap of $6.5 billion, according to CNBC. Possible buyers of the company would be Comcast, which is the parent company of NBC Universal, Endeavor, which could seek another asset to move away from UFC, or Amazon, which is growing in the sports world thanks to its “Thursday Night Football” deal with the NFL.
McMahon always has expressed a desire to maintain control his company, and while it’s unknown if he will take the reigns on the on-screen product, Friday’s move was another show of his desire to place himself front and center, even while he faces sexual assault allegations and is under federal investigation.