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Who is the real WWE owner?

It
It's a publicly traded family business!
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 06 Jan 2021
Feature

Albeit the phase of fierce competition from WCW, WWE has been the unchallenged leader in the world of pro wrestling. 

Then. Now. Forever. 

The ‘Forever’ is contestable here with the advent of All Elite Wrestling. However, even an unswerving AEW fan would admit, that the promotion helmed by Billionaire businessman Tony Khan, has a long way to go before it can even aspire to reach the imposing levels of success achieved by the WWE.

Vince McMahon is the chairman and CEO of entertainment organisation World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). As of today, the net worth of Vince McMahon monarchical realm of Sports Entertainment is valued at $5.74 Billion. You may have heard it from the dirt sheets and it’s true - Mr. McMahon is the unquestioned creative chief, who is responsible for the final product offered to the WWE Universe. 

But, is he the sole owner of the WWE? Not really. Then, who is the real owner of WWE? Before we break down the ownership structure of the company, let’s go back to the beginning and trace WWE’s steps to its present-day iteration.

The Beginning of WWE

Jess McMahon.
Jess McMahon.

It was 1952 when flourishing boxing promoter Roderick James "Jess" McMahon - Vince McMahon’s grandfather - decided to apply his promotional skills to professional wrestling. 

Along with WWE Hall of Famer and pioneering pro wrestler James E "Toots" Mondt, Jess McMahon founded Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd. (CWC) and got into a partnership with the territorial integrate of those days - the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).

Jess McMahon, unfortunately, passed away in 1954, which paved the way for his son, Vince James McMahon aka McMahon Sr., to take charge of the wheel. 

From (l) to (r): Vince McMahon Sr., Toots Mondt, and Bruno Sammartino
From (l) to (r): Vince McMahon Sr., Toots Mondt, and Bruno Sammartino

NWA and CWC began working together in 1953 and enjoyed a fruitful relationship until it all went downhill in 1963, owing to a conflict between NWA, Mondt and McMahon Sr. with regards to ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers holding the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.  

McMahon and Mondt ended their 10-year spell with NWA and rechristened the CWC as World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWF). 

Vince McMahon’s father spearheaded the rise of WWWF in the 1970s, which would later be shortened to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979. However, McMahon Sr. was just laying the foundation so that his prodigal yet cutthroat son could catapult the entire gig to the next level. 

All throughout the 1970s, Vince McMahon Jr. worked his way up in his father’s promotion. He went from being a small-time territory booker, an in-ring announcer, a commentator, to finally, the owner of the company.

The Takeover 

Vince McMahon had done enough to convince his father that he was ready to take the next big step, and in 1980, he established Titan Sports Inc. along with his wife Linda McMahon

Titan Sports acquired WWF’s parent company Capitol Sports in 1982, and it marked the beginning of Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s staggering journey. It wasn’t a bed of roses, though. 

He had to pay Vince McMahon Sr. and other shareholders - namely Arnold Skaaland and Gorilla Monsoon - for a year as per the Balloon payment system.

Vince McMahon Sr. and Vince McMahon Jr.
Vince McMahon Sr. and Vince McMahon Jr.
“People look at us today and say you're a billion-dollar organization, you're no longer a small business. This whole business started with one guy, me when I bought my dad out and his other stockholders on a balloon payment basis over a year. If I didn't meet all those payments on time, then my dad and his stockholders kept all the money and got the business back.” H/t: Nola.com

To say that Vince McMahon revolutionized the pro wrestling business would be an understatement. The Mad Titan wiped out all competition, fearlessly gambled on his ambitious ideas and provided a grandiose spectacle that would go on to attain global fandom in the years to come.

The Global Phenomenon WWE

Under the tutelage of Vince McMahon, WWE rose to unimaginable heights. As some of us have lived to tell the tales, the likes of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Bret Hart, and The Undertaker propelled the promotion to become a mainstream sensation.

The Monday Night Wars was an unlikely boon to pro wrestling, which transformed the industry and made Vince McMahon’s company the undoubted king of the jungle. 

Mick Foley, Triple H, Debra, Chyna, Steve Austin, The Rock along with Richard A. Grasso (c), Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange post WWF being listed on NYSE.
Mick Foley, Triple H, Debra, Chyna, Steve Austin, The Rock along with Richard A. Grasso (c), Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange post WWF being listed on NYSE.

The TV ratings were high, revenue was shooting through the roof as a result of innovative merchandising tactics, sold-out shows, an edgy product, and widespread media publicity. 

It was time for an upgrade from a business standpoint. The promotion, still known as WWF back then, became a publicly traded company in 1999 after starting an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). 

The promotion re-branded itself to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002 and has maintained its status as a publicly traded company on the NYSE till this very day.

The Modern-day WWE and Ownership Breakdown

WWE is a publicly traded company that is owned in chunks by various stakeholders who have purchased the WWE stock shares. 

The list of shareholders is a mix of wealthy individuals as well as equity & investment management firms and mutual funds.

It’s an easy guess to make - Vince McMahon is the single largest stockholder of the company, who holds 36.8% of the total shares. The figure has come down from 48.9 % after McMahon decided to sell 3,204,427 shares to fund the revival of XFL.

In addition to the CEO of the promotion, the McMahon family members and other high-ranking WWE officials also have stakes in the company. 

Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Linda McMahon own tiny portions of the company. Trust us, it’s a massive cake that has been aptly distributed. The following infographic will easily help you grasp the framework of WWE’s ownership:

Ownership break-up.
Ownership break-up.

Now you know why WWE is excessively cautious (read PG and scripted) about its image and overall content, as they are answerable to people who share a slice of the pie.

So who is the real Owner of WWE?

So going by the above infographic you can easily grasp that Vince Mcmahon is the single largest stock holder and CEO of the company. We can possibly answer this by saying Vince Mcmahon is the real owner of WWE, But its not that simple as explained above.

WWE Stocks revenue and growth

WWE has been a publicly traded company for over 20 years and just like any other business venture, has seen its ups-and-downs. However, it continues to be a highly remunerative stock option as the company, as of 2018, posted $930 Million in revenues with a 16% growth rate and $37 Million in dividend payout.

It
It's not always green these days.

As Vince McMahon, his family and other top executives own almost 50% of the company, the WWE head honcho still holds the majority voting power. Every big decision needs his stamp of approval. 

The man is 71 years old and claims that he will never leave WWE as he will probably never die. Despite his trademark impudence, we have to pose the question…

Who will take over WWE after Vince McMahon?

HHH is the odds-on favorite to assume the reins from Vince McMahon. At least, that is what the WWE Universe wants on the basis of The Cerebral Assassin’s distinguished work in altering NXT into a standalone brand. 

However, McMahon has the greatest share in the WWE and we’re still not sure who gets to control them once he decides to call it a day. In WWE’s K SEC filling earlier this year, the company addressed ‘the adverse effects’ that Vince McMahon’s death could have on the organization.

“Mr. McMahon has also been an important member of our cast of performers. The loss of Mr. McMahon due to unexpected retirement, disability, death or other unexpected termination for any reason could have a material adverse effect on our ability to create popular characters and creative storylines or could otherwise adversely affect our operating results.” H/t: SEC
If it
If it's not HHH, we riot!

And if you thought the recommencement of XFL in 2020 will keep him occupied, then you’re mistaken. 

“While he has provided the Company assurances that his focus on WWE will not be diverted by these efforts (XFL), any such diversion or perception of such diversion could adversely affect our operating results and could have a material adverse effect on our stock price.”

Vince McMahon may come off as a stubborn entrepreneur, but he hasn’t ruled out selling the WWE either. When asked about a potential sale, without elaborating much, McMahon said, “We are open for business.”

Business in the pro wrestling industry, as a whole, is picking up with the arrival of All Elite Wrestling and we’re certain that Mr. McMahon - the seasoned warhorse, won’t let go of his cherished brainchild just yet. Not until the impending war is over. 

Published 28 Jun 2019
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