Vince McMahon, the majority owner and former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., WWE 2.26%increase; green up pointing triangle plans to return to the company following his retirement last year amid a sexual-harassment scandal to pursue a sale of the business, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. McMahon, who has majority voting power through his ownership of WWE’s Class-B stock, has told the company that he is electing himself and two former co-presidents and directors, Michelle Wilson and George Barrios, to the board, the people said. The move to reinstate Mr. McMahon, which the board previously rebuffed, and the others will require three current directors to vacate their positions.
Mr. McMahon, whose abrupt departure in July 2022 followed disclosures by The Wall Street Journal of multiple payouts to women who had alleged sexual misconduct and infidelity, expects he will be able to assume the role of executive chairman, though he would need board approval for that, the people said.
It isn’t clear where that would leave his daughter, Stephanie McMahon. After his departure, she took over as chairwoman and co-CEO alongside Nick Khan, the company’s former president.
Actions are necessary to ensure McMahon’s full participation in upcoming media rights negotiations and review of strategic alternatives
GREENWICH, Conn., Jan. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Vince McMahon, the founder and controlling shareholder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (“WWE” or the “Company”) (NYSE: WWE), announced today that he has taken necessary actions to position the Company to capitalize on a unique opportunity to maximize long-term value for all WWE shareholders. The actions, communicated to WWE’s Board of Directors today via written consent, include the election to the Board of Mr. McMahon, as well as Michelle Wilson and George Barrios – former WWE Co-Presidents and Board members, and currently the Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Isos Capital Management – and the requisite removal from the Board of three directors. Mr. McMahon expects to assume the role of Executive Chairman of the Board.
Mr. McMahon’s new role will enable unified decision making through the Company’s upcoming media rights negotiations and a parallel full review of the Company’s strategic alternatives, which Mr. McMahon believes is the right course of action and in the best interests of WWE and WWE shareholders amidst the current dynamics in the media and entertainment industry. As Mr. McMahon has communicated to the Board, he believes there is a narrow window of opportunity to create significant value for all shareholders and that to do so, the strategic alternatives review must occur in tandem with the media rights negotiations. He also expressed to the Board that he believes these two initiatives require Mr. McMahon’s direct participation, leadership, and support as controlling shareholder.
“WWE is entering a critical juncture in its history with the upcoming media rights negotiations coinciding with increased industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and with more companies seeking to own the intellectual property on their platforms,” said Mr. McMahon. “The only way for WWE to fully capitalize on this opportunity is for me to return as Executive Chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”
Prior to delivering written consent, Mr. McMahon sent two separate letters to the Board in late December in which he expressed the urgency of his return to the Company as Executive Chairman and his desire to work collaboratively with the Board and management team. Following conversations with representatives of the Company both before and after Mr. McMahon’s most recent letter on December 31, Mr. McMahon determined, consistent with his rights as controlling shareholder, that the steps announced today are necessary to maximize value for all WWE shareholders.
Mr. McMahon said, “Ms. Wilson and Mr. Barrios are highly qualified directors whose professional experience positions them well to help the Company achieve the best possible outcomes in both initiatives. As former WWE Co-Presidents and Board members, they are intimately familiar with industry dynamics and the organization’s operations and have helped guide the Company through past successful media rights negotiations. I look forward to working closely again with Michelle and George – as well as the Company’s remaining directors and management team, who have my full support and confidence. WWE has an exceptional management team in place, and I do not intend for my return to have any impact on their roles, duties, or responsibilities.”
In conjunction with the changes to WWE’s Board, Mr. McMahon‘s written consent also includes certain amendments to the Company’s bylaws to ensure that WWE’s corporate governance continues to properly enable and support shareholder rights. These changes will be detailed in a Schedule 13D amendment to be filed by Mr. McMahon and a Form 8-K to be filed by the Company in the coming days.
No assurances can be given regarding the outcome or timing of the review process. Mr. McMahon does not intend to comment further until the process has concluded or Mr. McMahon has otherwise determined that further disclosure is appropriate or required.