Lawsuit filed over merchandising rights to Luchasaurus mask design (Updated Apr 10)

Original article posted January 26, 2023.

Click here to jump to updates on this case posted at the bottom of this article

A lawsuit was filed last month over the mask design used by AEW wrestler Luchasaurus. 

Composite Effects, LLC made a legal complaint, dated December 20, against All Elite Wrestling and Austin Matelson, claiming that AEW and Matelson, who performs as Luchasaurus, are using a copyrighted mask design for merchandising purposes without the designer’s permission. The Louisiana-based designer states that it “owns licensing and design rights on all of our characters.”

“Matelson was entitled to use the mask in events as a wrestler,” the plaintiff wrote, “but neither he nor anyone acting on his behalf was entitled to create merchandise that incorporated the mask design.”

The lawsuit shows various examples of the mask depicted in AEW’s merchandise advertisements, including T-shirts and action figures, which the design company claims infringe on its copyright.

Matelson worked with Composite Effects (abbreviated as CFX) initially around December 2016 to have a modified version made of the design CFX calls “Viper Silicone Mask”, according to the complaint. The mask was modified again for the wrestler in March 2019, just months before AEW’s first live events, to add horns to the mask.

When CFX learned that Matelson signed with AEW in 2019, the company tried to come to a licensing agreement with him, according to email records included with the lawsuit.

Later, in February 2021, CFX and AEW personnel began communicating about a new custom mask, which AEW bought the rights to, and which the plaintiff stated was shipped in August 2021. However, the custom mask wasn’t used much, if at all.

“Hey man thanks for the work on the new mask but after getting a look of it on my face Tony and I agreed my current mask is just too iconic at this point and we can’t change the face,” Matelson wrote, according to emails provided as exhibits by CFX. Matelson apparently was referring to Tony Khan, CEO of AEW.

CFX says it wrote subsequent messages in 2022 to AEW and Matelson asking them to stop using the design or come to a licensing agreement, but no deal was made and the design continued to be used in AEW merchandise.

The plaintiff also included a written declaration from another designer, George Frangadakis, who CFX says was approached by Matelson in January 2022 to create a mask similar to the design that CFX holds the copyright to.

Matelson and an associate known merely as “Jett” wanted “a near replica of CFX’s custom-designed mask,” according to the statement signed by Frangadakis.

“It was clear that there were legal issues that needed to be handled prior to my designing a new mask for Matelson,” Frangadakis wrote.

Frangadakis’s statement says he offered to create a new mask that didn’t resemble the CFX design, but he wasn’t contacted again by Jett or Matelson.

A certificate of registration for the design referred to as “Viper Silicone Mask” was included as an exhibit with the complaint.

Composite Effects is seeking profits AEW has made related to the alleged infringement, other damages sustained as a result, and attorneys’ fees.

We contacted AEW officials for comment but haven’t yet received a response.

Composite Effects is being represented by Kean Miller LLP.

The case is filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, where CFX is based.

Update February 7, 2023:

AEW requested on February 1 an extension to respond to the complaint by February 22. AEW’s request was approved by Judge Eldon E. Fallon on February 2. AEW is represented by Brad Harrigan from New Orleans-based law firm Tolar Harrigan & Morris LLC. Harrigan also submitted a motion on February 1 for Indiana lawyer Bradley Stohry, from Reichel Stohry Dean LLP, to represent AEW in Louisiana.

Update February 17, 2023:

AEW requested an extension to March 21 to respond to the complaint from Composite Effects, consistent with the deadline for Austin Mattelson (Luchasaurus) to respond. Composite Effects consented to the extension, according to the statement.

Update February 23, 2023:

On February 22, the judge in the case, Eldon E. Fallon approved AEW’s request to have an extension to respond by March 21, according to a filing.

Update March 21, 2023:

AEW moved today to dismiss five of the six counts raised by Composite Effects. AEW’s lawyer said the company will answer the remaining count after a decision is made on this motion.

AEW argued the five counts it says should be dismissed first either fail to make a viable claim or are preempted by the Copyright Act.

Later in the day Composite Effects (CFX) filed a proposed amended complaint, alleging Matelson had another mask maker create a similar mask that infringes on their copyrighted work, which CFX said is a breach of contract.

Update March 23, 2023:

A pro hac vice motion was submitted on March 22 for Austin Matelson (Luchasaurus) to have his own attorney in this case. Ohio lawyer Matthew T. Kemp has moved to represent Matelson in Louisiana.

Kemp is with the law firm, Shumaker Loop & Kendrick in Toledo, Ohio. That happens to be the firm Mike Dockins is from, the trademark lawyer who works with many wrestlers.

Pro hac vice is a common motion used to admit a lawyer who is licensed in another state but not in the case’s jurisdiction.

Update April 10, 2023:

On March 24, Judge Fallon approved the filing into the record of Composite Effects’ (CFX’s) amended complaint.

On April 7, lawyers representing Austin Matelson (Luchasaurus) submitted a motion to dismiss CFX’s complaint based on failure to state a claim.

Matelson’s attorneys wrote that CFX fails to plausibly allege that the modified versions of the Luchasaurus mask are “substantially similar” to the “Viper Silicone Mask” that CFX claims as its copyright.

Substantial similarity is defined, according to the attorneys who cite case law, as a similarity by which “an ‘ordinary observer, unless he set out to detect the disparities, would be disposed to overlook them, and regard [the] aesthetic appeal as the same.'”

Portion of the defendant’s motion to dismiss. First row: Three modified versions of the Luchasaurus mask; Second row: The “Viper Silicone Mask” that CFX claims as its copyrighted work.

At Matelson’s request, the Viper Silicon Mask was modified by CFX in or around December 2016. In March 2019, another modification was made to add horns.

“It is evident from these pictures that the Luchasaurus Mask differs from the Copyright Work in much more than simply the addition of horns,” Matelson’s lawyers argued. “Most obviously, the Luchasaurus Mask is an entirely different shape, covering only the front part of the face above the mouth, rather than covering the full head with a cowl extending to the shoulders.”

Matelson later had a third version of the mask made by a different mask maker, the “Olaja Mask”, seen on the far right in the first row of the image above, which the wrestler’s attorneys said has even more differences than earlier iterations of the design. The shape and placement of scales are different, his lawyers say, as well as a difference in the mouth hole shape, and the presence of raised cheek ridges.

On the subject of breach of contract, Matelson’s representatives said, “[T]here is no allegation that Matelson–by engaging in two custom sales transactions with CFX–agreed to be bound by the general terms and conditions displayed on CFX’s website.”

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


Support quality reporting on the wrestling business

MLW amends antitrust complaint against WWE, citing exclusivity agreement with Peacock

MLW alleges that WWE’s agreement with Peacock, which reportedly keeps non-WWE pro wrestling content off of the NBCUniversal streaming platform, contributes to its antitrust case against WWE, according to MLW’s amended complaint filed yesterday. 

MLW’s new broadcaster, Reelz recently made a deal that will allow the channel to be streamed live on Peacock, except for when MLW Underground airs on Tuesdays at 10 pm.

Variety reported last week that MLW’s run on Reelz is only to last ten weeks. Reelz later made a statement, saying the network hadn’t yet made a decision about MLW programming. The comment didn’t clarify exactly how long MLW would air on Reelz.

The original complaint, which was filed more than a year ago, in January 2022, was dismissed last month but the judge in the case allowed MLW to amend its claims. Judge Edward J. Davila ruled that “MLW has not included sufficient facts to plausibly allege a relevant antitrust product market.”

WWE last year responded to the initial claims, arguing that MLW was trying to improperly blame WWE for its business failures.

The rewritten filing more narrowly defines the market relevant to claims that WWE is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act as the U.S. market for pro wrestling media content, rather than the U.S. pro wrestling market more broadly.

MLW argues exclusivity agreements like those WWE reportedly made with Peacock, which prevents the platform from distributing wrestling content that doesn’t belong to WWE, isn’t the norm in the media industry.

New to MLW’s narrative is a description of wrestling business history in which WWE has been the dominant force since WCW went out of business in 2001 and was acquired by WWE. The 1990s are described as a high point for the wrestling industry with strong television viewership amid competition from WCW and ECW. MLW further claims that WWE moving its program Raw to TNN in 2000 led to the cancellation of ECW from the same network, which later resulted in ECW’s assets being bought as well by WWE.

MLW raises more specific claims than in its prior complaint, which also alleged unfair practices related to venues and talent.

The suit alleges WWE executive “Triple H” Paul Levesque called Madison Square Garden in 2018 to urge the venue to cancel its scheduled event to be held by Ring of Honor and New Japan, the eventual G1 Supercard that took place on Wrestlemania weekend in April 2019. MSG did cancel the show, but rescheduled it only after Sinclair Broadcasting, ROH’s then-parent company, threatened legal action, MLW claims.

According to MLW, WWE blocked AEW from running at Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati in 2019 and early 2020.

When it comes to interfering with talent, MLW says WWE hired away then-current MLW champion Stephon Strickland (current AEW wrestler Swerve Strickland, known as Isaiah “Swerve” Scott in WWE). WWE’s talent executive at the time, Canyon Ceman is alleged to have encouraged Strickland to opt out of his MLW contract. In July 2021, WWE allegedly hired Davey Boy Smith Jr. away from MLW. Smith subsequently only appeared in one dark match for WWE, which “made clear [WWE’s] intent to impair MLW’s ability to build its brand and viewership by removing one of its successful wrestlers.”

MLW says AEW demanded WWE stop contacting many AEW wrestlers who WWE was trying to hire away. The claim seems related to AEW CEO Tony Khan’s assertion that AEW wrestlers have told him WWE has approached those wrestlers and tried to get them to break their contracts with AEW.

MLW points out WWE ran two premium live events on Labor Day weekend, one the day before AEW’s All Out pay-per-view and another earlier on the same day, which the plaintiff alleges was intended to prevent the success of the AEW event.

To illustrate how hard it is to compete with WWE, MLW claims AEW “has yet to be profitable since launching in 2019.”

In an attempt to strengthen its argument that other content can’t be substituted for pro wrestling content — a counter WWE has raised — MLW argued wrestling programming provides a unique audience.

MLW claims wrestling content reaches the valuable 18 to 49 age demographic and that its audience is different from that of other programs because it skews male and with viewers aged 35 to 44. Pro wrestling is a unique combination of sports and entertainment, a claim purportedly supported by public comments from Stephanie McMahon and former WCW executive Eric Bischoff. MMA, boxing, and other sports are not substitutes, MLW says, because they’re not predetermined and the drama can’t be controlled like in pro wrestling. Additionally, pro wrestling is aired year-round, unlike other sports.

WWE’s conduct is a detriment to wrestling fans, MLW claims, writing WWE “has harmed wrestling fans by reducing their choices and quality of professional wrestling programming and increasing their costs of consuming that content.”

Further public comments from Jim Ross and from a Wrestlenomics article are referenced as MLW argues media distribution is necessary to compete in the market.

As in the original complaint, MLW maintains that WWE interfered with MLW’s media deals with Tubi, Vice, and FITE.

MLW presents an analysis of the U.S. pro wrestling media rights market, arguing WWE currently controls 92% of the revenue from that market, with its deals for Raw and Smackdown, worth a combined $470 million per year. AEW, with its deal worth $43.8 million per year makes up 6% of the market, MLW says. That leaves less than 2% of the remaining market going to other wrestling companies in the U.S., including MLW, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Women of Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and the National Wrestling Alliance.

MLW makes a calculation that it admits is likely an overestimate, based on the value per viewer of AEW’s media deal. The rest of the market MLW estimates a total of $11.5 million per year. Based on MLW’s own formula, New Japan makes an estimated $1.57 million per year and WOW an estimated $8.45 million per year. MLW estimates Impact, Ring of Honor, and the NWA generate no revenue from media rights fees. Details about revenue MLW generates appear to be redacted in the filing, but MLW’s estimate seems to imply the company has the potential to generate about $1.5 million per year between Reelz and Pro Wrestling TV, given if you subtract $8.45 million and $1.57 million from $11.5 million, the value left is about $1.5 million.

We should note that the above revenue values are only MLW’s estimates and are meant to demonstrate the highest possible value other wrestling companies may be generating from media rights fees. MLW is trying to emphasize how little revenue other wrestling companies generate in comparison to WWE. Before the above estimate is presumed as a reliable analysis of wrestling media revenue, it should also be noted that MLW didn’t try to estimate revenue Impact, Ring of Honor, and NWA may be generating from pay-per-view, streaming subscription services, or ad-supported platforms like YouTube. The actual revenue those companies generate from media distribution isn’t publicly known and may be far different.

MLW continues to be represented by lawyers from the well-known law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP. The amended complaint is submitted by Christine Montenegro, whereas the original complaint was submitted by Jason Takenouchi.

The case is filed in federal court in California, where Tubi is headquartered.

We contacted MLW and WWE and have yet to hear back. This article will be updated if either provides a comment.

This article was updated to add location of the court where the case is filed.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


Support quality reporting on the wrestling business

Explaining Warner Bros. Discovery’s claim that AEW brings in 4 million viewers on Wednesdays despite Dynamite averaging 960,000 viewers in 2022

We asked Warner Bros. Discovery about the comment by executive Jason Sarlanis, from Wednesday’s press release announcing AEW All Access, where he said AEW’s fan base “brings in more than 4 million viewers to TBS every Wednesday night”.

The comment was surprising because AEW Dynamite’s audience on TBS is commonly measured to be about one-quarter of that number, averaging 960,000 viewers in 2022, according to Wrestlenomics data.

We’re told by WBD that the 4 million measurement refers to the number of viewers who watched at least one minute of TBS on Wednesday from 7 pm to 12 am, each week on average in 2022.

A WBD spokesperson told Wrestlenomics: "[W]e attribute most of that success to AEW Dynamite."

Sarlanis, who is the president of Turner Networks, ID, and HLN, said in the press release that “AEW has such an amazingly loyal and dedicated fan base that brings in more than 4 million viewers to TBS every Wednesday night.”

Dynamite airs from 8 pm to 10 pm on Wednesdays. The 4 million figure would therefore include non-AEW programming from 7 pm to 8 pm and 10 pm to 12 am, meaning the count includes viewership from The Big Bang Theory, among the best-performing reruns on cable, in the hour before Dynamite. It would include programming airing after Dynamite in 2022 also, which was often other rerun shows like Young Sheldon.

Dynamite’s 960,000 viewer average for last year, as well as the typical ratings data reported by outlets like Wrestlenomics and Showbuzz Daily, are minute-by-minute averages throughout the duration of the program. Those numbers reflect the count of viewers who watched live or same-day, as opposed to reflecting the unique count of viewers who watched for at least one minute. It’s unclear if WBD’s 4 million number includes DVR viewership through the seven days after the air date, which would help bring the total higher.

In the newest Wrestlenomics 30 podcast for subscribers, we had a breakdown of how many unique viewers on average, for at least one minute, watched each major WWE and AEW program in 2023 year-to-date.

We learned that, according to Nielsen data, so far this year, Dynamite averages 2.9 million unique viewers who watch at least one minute of the show within seven days of airing.

For comparison, WWE’s Monday Night Raw on USA Network averages 4.8 million by that methodology. For AEW Rampage on TNT, the number is 1.3 million. For WWE Smackdown on Fox, 6.9 million. And for WWE NXT on USA Network, 2.0 million.

It’s notable that with a threshold as low as one minute, this methodology could be counting many viewers who accidentally tune into a program before quickly tuning out.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


Support quality reporting on the wrestling business

WWE earnings report Q4 and full year 2022

Last updated at 8:29 pm ET.

Key takeaways and analysis

Nick Khan says Vince McMahon is willing to leave

Nick Khan in Q&A assured investors “without question” that Vince McMahon will leave the company if that’s part of a company sale that is the best deal for investors. “He’s declared it to the board,” Khan said. “He’s declared it to us in management. It’s all about shareholder value. It’s not about what role he’ll have. It’s about maximizing that value opportunity.”

Many, including me, believe Vince may be on a slow roll toward regaining the power he originally had. It seems likely he ultimately would like to return to being the head of creative, a move that’s probably safer to make after a possible company sale and/or a new media deal for Raw and Smackdown are in place. It’s not clear to what extent business partners would care whether the former CEO has seven known sexual misconduct allegations against him regains his earlier power, but it’s an outcome I believe would be detrimental to the content, to the company’s morale, and it’s ability to attract talent who wary of working with Vince.

It’s encouraging to hear Khan say Vince is willing to go if that’s the best thing for shareholders, but it’s hard to take at face value. It requires believing that Vince values the money he’d make from a sale more than he’d value a pathway to return more fully to power. Lawyers who wish to file class action complaints on behalf of shareholders will be taking note if a sale doesn’t materialize or if it might be argued a better sale could’ve been gotten if we end up with a company transaction that preserves a role for Vince.

Khan in the end isn’t a mind reader and only Vince may know what his true intentions are and what conditions he’s willing to accept.

Despite palace intrigue, WWE’s popularity is moving in a positive direction

You have to read carefully through a lot of hype when listening to a company whose message is that everything is always wonderful, but WWE’s fan popularity, consumer sales, and sponsorship sales are all important areas that are moving in the right direction.

The positive deltas for viewership of PLEs on Peacock aren’t very meaningful when the platform has doubled subscribers in the last year.

What’s more meaningful is Raw, Smackdown, and NXT viewership are all doing at least as well, and, in many cases, better than they were last year. As noted on the call, it’s true that younger viewership in particular has improved. Q1 to date, with viewers aged 18 to 34, Raw, Smackdown, and NXT are up 21%, 5%, and 6%, respectively. In Q4 those deltas for the same three shows were +15%, +5%, and +26%.

Domestic ticket sales in Q4 were up, averaging 5,500 compared to 5,200 in the prior year, and that’s with six more events, so total tickets were up to a greater degree.

Concretely, WWE comes out of Royal Rumble with interesting stories around Sami Zayn, Roman Reigns, and Cody Rhodes.

Any trust being accumulated with fans who may be tuning back in is fragile, given the last several years of widely-criticized creative that coincided with a decline in the popularity of WWE’s consumer engagement.

Sponsorship sales have grown dramatically for the Royal Rumble and for Wrestlemania. That’s an area analysts have long focused on as being under-monetized. Khan expressed willingness to finally put sponsors on the ring apron and canvas, a move I believe Vince has always been opposed to.


WWE reports Q4 and full year 2022 results this evening after market close with a conference call at 5 pm ET.

John Pollock and I will review the report tomorrow (Friday) at 1 pm in podcast form and live on POST Wrestling’s YouTube channel.

There’s intrigue as to whether Vince McMahon will participate in the earnings call, after his forceful return to the company as executive chairman in January. Given his diminished participation on calls in his last years as CEO, I wouldn’t bet on hearing from him.

No executives are named in the company’s call advisory, a break from the usual. Stephanie McMahon was a fixture on these calls in recent years and resigned last month after her father leveraged his way back on the board of directors.

Most likely to speak are CEO Nick Khan and president and chief financial officer Frank Riddick. Chief content officer Paul Levesque spoke on the previous call and could appear again to highlight successes with content including at last Saturday’s Royal Rumble.

Financially, expect WWE to confirm 2022 was its most profitable year ever and highest annual revenue ever.

I’ve estimated $1.3 billion in revenue for 2022 and net income of $205 million.

For the fourth quarter (October to December) WWE projected $83 million to $90 million in adjusted OIBDA, the company’s preferred non-GAAP profit metric.

Analysts expect EPS for the quarter of about 58 cents and revenue of around $335 million.

Expect analyst Q&A to be the most interesting part of the call, as usual. A potential company sale is top of mind. Vince says he’s back to explore that, and the stock price continued to climb in response. Executives will probably be guarded talking about the subject, though.

Some predictions for WWE’s reporting today on the full year of 2022:

  • Revenue: $1.295 billion
  • Net income: $206 million
  • Adjusted OIBDA: $382 million
  • Total attendance (worldwide): 1,422,700
  • Average attendance (worldwide): 6,200
  • North America average attendance: 6,100
  • North America total attendance: 1,330,700

Earnings information is released

Earnings release:


Trending schedules:

WWE reports net income for 2022 of $195.6 million and annual revenue of $1.2915 billion. As expected, both are new records for the company even when adjusting for inflation.

WWE reported adjusted OIBDA (the non-GAAP profit metric they provide for guidance) for Q4 of $90.2 million, just over the range of their guidance.

EPS for the quarter was 45 cents, somewhat below expectations.

The press release notes each PLE in Q4 was the most-viewed event in its history. Crown Jewel was the most-viewed int’l event. Royal Rumble was the most viewed Rumble.

Keep in mind Peacock subscribers in Q4 were more than 2x from the prior year.

My chart:

Credit to WWE for not excluding the December 26 “Best of” show from the Raw average for Q4, which was the lowest in Raw history. Excluding it, Raw was flat for the quarter.

These slides, as usual, show Raw and Smackdown (+7%) sustaining viewers better than their networks and broader TV.

With its holiday tour in Q4, WWE averaged 5,500 paid attendees, better than last year’s 5,200. And with 6 more events than last year.

The international tour, with 2 fewer events than last year, averaged 4,200, better than last year’s 3,700.

WWE online ad-supported video watch time continues to fall. While view counts (which probably have different definitions across platforms) are more stable.

WWE states adjusted OIBDA guidance for 2023 at $395 million to $410 million, which would be a new annual record.

The company also expects 2023 to set a new record for annual revenue again.

Sound like the NXT deal with NBCU isn’t aligned to expire with Raw and Smackdown, from this note on “key initiatives that could have meaningful implications on the Company’s performance” in 2023.

Highlight added:

WWE provides statements in the earnings release on Vince McMahon’s return to explore a sale and the special investigation into his and John Laurinaitis’s alleged misconduct.

The statement reads similarly to previous comments.

WWE estimates $65 million to $75 million in adjusted OIBDA for Q1. Lower revenue and profitability than the previous year because the Saudi event will be in Q2 rather than Q1 this year.

Conference call notes

WWE CEO Nick Khan begins with prepared remarks, noting annual financial records and increased reach of content.

Nick takes a moment to address changes and Vince’s return and “strategic alternatives review”.

Nick notes they’re using the Raine Group to evaluate a company transaction. “There’s more interest than ever in owning content and intellectual property.”

Nick thanks Stephanie McMahon.

Nick says WWE set in-market gate records for Raw and Smackdown in more than 20 cities.

He expects Wrestlemania to be sold out on both nights. The new season of Smackdown is averaging 2.3 million viewers, up 6%. Raw is up 2%. “All of TV is down 18%”.

He notes December 30, last Friday’s Smackdown, and the Raw 30 ratings, which were exceptionally high.

“Raw is seeing big gains in young viewers.” P18-34 is up.

Royal Rumble was the highest-grossing and most-viewed Royal Rumble in history.

Nick gives % deltas for PLE viewership versus prior year’s event of the same name:

  • Royal Rumble: +52%
  • Extreme Rules: +36%
  • Crown Jewel: +70%
  • Survivor Series: +46%

PLEs in 2022 vs. 2021: +43%

My note: Peacock subscribers are up 100% in Q4 year-over-year. The possible audience for those events has increased rapidly as the service subscriber base matures.

Venue merchandise sales for Survivor Series and Rumble set new records for those events.

Nick says sponsorship revenue is up 98% so far in 2023 from the same period last year. Sales for Rumble nearly tripled.

Paul Levesque will speak next.

Levesque praises talent and the writing team in prepared remarks. Rhea Ripley winning the Rumble, Pat McAfee on commentary, Logan Paul, Cody Rhodes winning, Pitch Black sponsorship match, Bloodline angle, and Sami Zayn are mentioned from Royal Rumble.

Levesque highlights YouTube and social media numbers. He says WWE is the leading sports league on TikTok. They’ve signed a licensing deal (seemingly with TikTok). International and talent accounts will be launched.

Logan Paul jumping off the top rope at Summerslam was WWE’s most-watched video on social media.

Levesque says members of the first NIL class have transitioned to full-time training at the PC, “with their TV debuts on the horizon soon.”

Levesque says, “I also want to add having Vince around has been great… Having him back and involved even at just the board level comes with his incredible insight.”

CFO/president Frank Riddick says pre-order and social media engagement for WWE 2K is above the rate of the previous WWE 2K console game release.

Riddick notes, as stated in the earnings release, “certain payments” (Vince McMahon’s NDAs with women) are still being recorded on WWE’s books as payments continue to be paid.

Vince’s NDAs are long-term payment agreements. WWE says the payments are made by Vince personally.

Riddick says the first wave of employees moving to the new headquarters building is scheduled for late March.

Q&A with analysts is next.

Question & answer notes

Brandon Ross thinks potential buyers will be impacted by Vince’s desire to remain after a sale. Is Vince willing to end his involvement?

Nick says, “Yes. It’s all about shareholder value. It’s not about what role he’ll have.”

Nick takes a question on interest in US media rights. He says more buyers are interested in WWE media rights than in the last round. More than just the 2 buyers in the previous round.

What are you doing differently to drive success in engagement with Rumble and Wrestlemania. Would you ever monetize ring skirting and other assets?

Nick says, yes, they’re looking into putting sponsors on skirting and other assets.

Why run a possible company transaction and media rights in parallel?

Nick says the right of the first bid “kick in in short order” for incumbents for Raw and Smackdown. It gives more bidders the chance to make an offer.

Why are Smackdown ratings doing better than Raw? And what about NXT ratings?

Nick says competition from MNF is a factor. NXT is seeing ratings growth. USA Network is thrilled.

Would NBCU or Fox have rights if you’re acquired?

Nick says any transaction would respect the rights that NBCU and Fox hold. He alludes to the first renewal rights window beginning just after Wrestlemania.

Whether WWE is acquired or not, there’s going to be a lot of cash available. How are you going to use it?

Riddick after the new HQ spending is done, there will be a new PC and NXT Europe touring program. Further monetization of IP. Funds can also be returned to shareholders.

How important is traditional TV to overall fan engagement?

Nick says it’s still important but not as important as it once was. A lot of Peacock viewing is on mobile devices.

The call has ended.

I’ll be on with John Pollock tomorrow at 1 pm ET live on POST Wrestling’s YouTube channel. Audio will be in the Wrestlenomics Radio and POST Wrestling podcast feed afterward.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


Support quality reporting on the wrestling business

New show with Steve Austin among lineup of WWE programming coming to A&E

WWE will have a new run of Sunday night content on A&E beginning in February.

A new series starring Steve Austin, currently titled, “Stone Cold Takes on America”, we’ve learned is scheduled to have a 10-week run beginning April 9 and end on June 11, which will start airing after the new six-episode season of WWE Legends Biography is finished.

The tentative order for the new season of biography episodes airing on Sunday nights is planned as follows:

  • Feb 19: NWO
  • Feb 26: Jake “The Snake” Roberts
  • Mar 5: Chyna Mar 12: Kane
  • Mar 19: Iron Sheik
  • Mar 26: Dusty Rhodes

New episodes of WWE Rivals will also air on Sundays following the biography series.

  • Feb 19: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
  • Feb 26: Undertaker vs. Mankind
  • Mar 5: The Rock vs. John Cena
  • Mar 12: Triple H vs. Batista
  • Mar 19: Lita vs. Trish Stratus
  • Mar 26: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
  • Apr 9: Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
  • Apr 16: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels

New episodes of these series won’t air on Sunday during Wrestlemania weekend, April 2.

After new episodes of WWE Rivals air, in their place will be a new run of WWE Most Wanted Treasures, with episodes on Steve Austin on April 23 and Degeneration X on April 30. Other subjects that will air through June 11, with air dates not yet decided, are “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, the Samoan dynasty, Goldberg, and Kurt Angle.

Brandon Thurston

Everything you need to know about Vince McMahon’s return to WWE so far (Updated January 12)

Updated January 12, 2023. Jump to additional info.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday afternoon that Vince McMahon will be electing himself and two former co-presidents and directors, Michelle Wilson and George Barrios, to WWE’s board of directors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The value of WWE shares quickly moved up 12% in after-market trading, possibly driven by the notion Vince will come back to sell the company.

A few hours later, Vince McMahon himself published a press release, confirming his intent to return and appoint himself, Barrios, Wilson, and remove three directors. He didn’t name which three members he would remove from the board.

Vince McMahon Takes Actions in Support of Plan for WWE to Undertake a Review of Strategic Alternatives and Capture Unique Opportunity to Maximize Long-term Value for All Shareholders


Jan 05, 2023, 16:25 ET

Submits written consent to WWE Board electing himself and Company veterans George Barrios and Michelle Wilson as Directors

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.

Michelle Wilson Biography

Ms. Wilson is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Isos Capital Management. She is a leading sports and entertainment c-suite executive and, prior to founding Isos with Mr. Barrios, most recently served as Co-President and Board Member of WWE until January 2020. In 2018, Forbes named Ms. Wilson one of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Sports. She also was featured on the Adweek 50 list, which highlights the leading executives in Media, Marketing and Technology, and named one of Sports Illustrated’s 10 Most Influential Women in Sports. She joined WWE in 2009 and prior to her appointment as Co-President, served as Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer.

Previously, Michelle served as the Chief Marketing Officer of the United States Tennis Association, oversaw all marketing efforts for the launch of the XFL, a partnership between WWE and NBC, and held consumer products and brand management positions at the NBA and Nabisco, respectively. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School and currently serves on the Boards of Bowlero Corporation and Turtle Beach Corporation.

George Barrios Biography

Mr. Barrios serves as Isos Capital Management’s Co-Founder and Co-CEO. He is an award-winning c-suite executive and most recently served as Co-President and Board Member of WWE until January 2020. In 2017, Institutional Investor ranked George among the Top 3 CFOs in the Media Industry as part of its All-America Executive team rankings. He joined WWE in 2008 as its Chief Strategy and Financial Officer.

Previously, he held leadership roles in finance, strategy and operations at the New York Times, Praxair, Time Warner and HBO. He received his MBA from the University of Connecticut School of Business and currently serves as the National Board Chair of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Kirkland & Ellis is serving as legal counsel to Mr. McMahon.


It’s important to note at the end of Vince’s press release, he writes there will be filings in the following days detailing changes to WWE’s bylaws. We will learn from those whether he can make changes to the board immediately or if he needs to wait until the shareholders’ meeting in the spring.

Friday, January 6, 2023

The next day, Friday morning, WWE published a filing making it clear Vince McMahon is back on the company’s board of directors.

The new filing states that effective immediately Vince puts himself, Michelle Wilson, and George Barrios on the board and removes independent directors Alan Wexler, JoEllen Lyons Dillon, and Jeffrey Speed.

The filing shows Vince making changes to WWE’s bylaws so media rights deals and any company sales can’t be made without his approval.

The filing includes letters between himself and the board as exhibits.

Vince writes the following letter dated December 20, 2022, where he tells the board he wants to come back as executive chairman and participate in a possible merger or acquisition of the company, coinciding with the timing of what would be WWE’s important media rights renewal negotiations. He reassures the board that he’s supportive of current executives Stephanie McMahon, Nick Khan, and Paul Levesque.

Dear Board of Directors,

I have always recognized that we have a massive responsibility to the WWE Universe. Our fans deserve the best entertainment experience that WWE can offer, and I thank you for your efforts to keep our Company focused on that goal through this distinctly challenging year for WWE.

Throughout my entire tenure with the Company, I have always been committed to doing what I believed to be in the best interest of WWE and our employees, shareholders, fans, and other stakeholders. It also is why I voluntarily retired from the Company during the pendency of the special committee investigation and fully cooperated with the committee and its independent counsel’s process. My retirement was intended to give the special committee, its independent counsel, and the rest of the Board the time and space needed to understand and respond to the allegations.

Now that the completion of the special committee investigation has been publicly disclosed, I believe WWE has a unique opportunity during this critical juncture to maximize value for its shareholders and all other stakeholders. Specifically, given the rapidly evolving media landscape in which more and more companies are seeking to own the intellectual property offered on their streaming platforms – I firmly believe that the best thing to do for all of WWE’s shareholders and other stakeholders is to undertake a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives. I am confident that our other shareholders will support this decision.

As you know, the media rights subject to the upcoming negotiations are critical to any strategic alternative consideration, and therefore the two initiatives must occur in parallel fashion. By combining a review of strategic alternatives, with the media rights negotiations, our Company can make better, more well-informed, and faster decisions. Moreover, any party that engages in strategic discussions with WWE will want to be assured that I, as controlling shareholder, am aligned with the decision-making process. In other words, we must unify the Company’s decision-making regarding these two interconnected initiatives to fully capitalize on this unique opportunity.

For these reasons, it is critical for me to rejoin the Board as Executive Chairman to work alongside our management team in leading the exploration of strategic alternatives and media rights negotiations – and it is necessary to fulfill my commitment to doing what is best for WWE. Successfully navigating this process will require close coordination among WWE leadership and the Board, as well as a clearly defined and well-executed strategy to secure the greatest value for WWE’s stockholders. As WWE’s founder and largest shareholder, no one has a greater interest in the long-term success of WWE – or is more aligned with all WWE shareholders – than me.

I want to be very clear that I wholeheartedly believe that WWE has an exceptional management team in place. Stephanie, Nick, Paul, and the rest of the management team have my full and unconditional support, and as Executive Chairman, I would support them to facilitate unified, efficient, and effective
decision-making during this important period in the Company’s history.

An announcement that I am rejoining the Board as Executive Chairman provides a natural opportunity for WWE to announce its intention to engage in a strategic review process. In light of timing of the media rights cycle, it is important to finalize my return to WWE as soon as possible. Accordingly, I would request to hear back from you by 6pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, January 3.

I intend to keep my letter and any ancillary communications out of the public domain and trust that the Board will do the same. While I of course reserve all my rights, my strong preference is to conduct any dialogue regarding this letter privately and collaboratively. I, along with corporate counsel at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, am available to discuss any questions you may have.

Thank you for your continued commitment to WWE. I look forward to working together to maximize value for our shareholders, other stakeholders, and the entire WWE Universe.

Happy Holidays,


The board members respond with an email dated December 27. They tell Vince that they’ve unanimously agreed that he shouldn’t come back to the company. Notably, board members include co-CEOs Stephanie McMahon (Vince’s daughter) and Nick Khan, as well as chief content officer “Triple H” Paul Levesque (Vince’s son-in-law), in addition to eight other members who are not full-time WWE executives.

Their reasons for not wanting him back include “non-public information the Board has become aware of and the risks to the Company and its shareholders of placing a greater spotlight on these issues.”

The directors ask Vince to sign a letter agreeing he won’t come back to the company and that he will pay for the cost of the company’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him and former executive John Laurinaitis. In exchange, the directors say they will agree not to sue him for those expenses, against the wishes of a shareholder demand letter.

Dear Vince,

We write in response to your letter of December 20.

We fully agree with your assessment that the Company’s management team is exceptional and are pleased to hear that Stephanie, Nick, Paul and the rest of the management team have your full and unconditional support. We believe that our investors, employees and fans agree; there is tremendous excitement at the Company and among our fan base, and our stock price has grown by more than 40% in just the last year. We remain optimistic about the continued success of this management team and the WWE franchise overall, and we believe your support is critical to this success.

As you know, it is our fiduciary obligation to continue to act in a way we believe is in the best interests of the Company and its shareholders. We have always taken that responsibility very seriously and all of our decisions are guided by this duty.

With respect to your suggestion regarding a process to evaluate strategic alternatives, and your role in that process, we are prepared to initiate such a process and are happy to work with you to ensure that it is the best process for the Company and all of its shareholders. Indeed, we would welcome you and your advisors playing an important role in that process, including working together to identify the full range of potential alternatives and counterparties. To that end, we suggest that your bankers and lawyers meet with our bankers and lawyers in the first week of January to discuss how to best move forward together with this process.

Although we welcome your participation in the launch of a strategic alternatives review process, it is also our unanimous view that your return to the Company at this time, while government investigations into your conduct by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and SEC are still pending, would not be prudent from a shareholder value perspective. This determination is based on a variety of factors, including non-public information the Board has become aware of and the risks to the Company and its shareholders of placing a greater spotlight on these issues.

The attached draft letter agreement provides that the Board will not agree to the shareholder demand that the Company file suit against you, on the conditions that you confirm your commitment to repay all of the investigation-related expenses incurred by the Company and that you agree not to serve as an officer, director or employee of the Company during the pendency of the government investigations. Those conditions and the draft letter agreement reflecting such conditions were unanimously approved by the Board prior to receiving your letter of December 20, and were reaffirmed unanimously subsequent to that date.

We are excited about the future of WWE and its continued success, and we look forward to working with you in the exploration of potential strategic alternatives as we continue to try to maximize shareholder value.


The Board of Directors of WWE

Vince wrote another message to the board on New Year’s Eve, December 31, clearly dissatisfied with the directors’ response. He states that he won’t agree to any company sale or media rights deals unless he’s involved as executive chairman, consistent with the Journal’s earlier reporting.

Dear Board of Directors,

I appreciate your timely response to my December 20 letter. However, it is surprising that you did not address what I had sought to make clear in my letter – namely that we have a unique but narrow window of opportunity to maximize shareholder value by combining the upcoming media rights negotiations with a strategic review process the Board acknowledges is the right course of action for our shareholders – and that the only way to fully capture that opportunity is by having me – the Company’s founder and controlling shareholder – return as Executive Chairman at this critical time so
that I can work alongside the management team to unify the decision making related to these two interconnected initiatives.

I would like to be clear that unless I have direct involvement and input as Executive Chairman from the outset, I will not be able to support or approve any media rights deals or strategic transaction (including any commitments made by or on behalf of the Company regarding a potential transaction or process). This position is not driven by self-interest or a lack of confidence in the Company’s management team, but rather by my commitment to doing what is best for WWE and all its shareholders and by my strong belief that maximizing the outcome of these processes will require close coordination and unified and efficient decision making. I sincerely hope we can work together to unlock this tremendous value potential.

There is no rationale for your position that my return to the Company “would not be prudent from a shareholder value perspective.” To the contrary, my return in the context of the media rights negotiations and a potential value maximizing strategic transaction is necessary precisely from a shareholder value perspective because it will allow WWE (as well as any transaction counterparties) to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder. Further, the special committee of the Board has concluded its investigation and presumably all of its material findings have been publicly disclosed by the Company, and nothing has been communicated to me about any matter that would prevent me from returning to the Board. So while I am pleased to see that we all agree as to the Board’s fiduciary obligations to act in the best interests of WWE and all its shareholders, it remains unclear to me how the Board can discharge these obligations if it does not permit me to be actively involved in helping to lead these two interconnected initiatives from within the boardroom so that I can make a fully informed decision about whether any potential transaction creates the most value for all shareholders.

I also feel that it is necessary to clearly state my position that, in light of the fundamental nature of WWE’s media rights to the core value proposition and purpose of WWE, it would be improper for the Company or Board to take material steps towards any media rights deal without WWE shareholder
support (particularly considering that a very clear majority of the voting power explicitly opposes the Company taking these steps without shareholder support).

Regarding the shareholder demand letter, I am glad to learn that following a review of the shareholder demand, the Board has determined that the demand does not warrant any further legal action. However, it is unfortunate that the Board would seek to use this conclusion to attempt to extract an agreement from me not to return to the Company. Any construct along these lines is entirely unacceptable, especially in light of the critical inflection points now facing the Company.

I would also like to clarify that my intention is to avoid the creation of any conflict of interest related to the special committee’s investigation or related matters because of my return to the Board. As executive Chairman, and consistent with my prior actions, I would not interfere with any government
investigations or the special committee’s and independent directors’ process in cooperating with those or related investigations and would fully support appropriate and tailored governance measures to insulate me from those matters, as well as any improvements to the Company’s internal controls determined to be appropriate by the independent directors. As I have previously conveyed, I also remain willing to continue working to finalize my reimbursement of the Company for its reasonable expenses incurred related to the investigation by and findings of the special committee to the extent
not covered by insurance.

Finally, I would like to reiterate my full support for WWE’s management team and their leadership of the WWE franchise. It remains my sincere preference that we enable a cooperative path forward so that we can navigate these interconnected processes together, for the benefit of our shareholders. I look forward to hearing back from you promptly (and in any case by no later than January 5, 2023).



WWE shares opened at about $80 on Friday, quickly reaching a new 52-week high and up 11% from the previous day’s close price. Trading of company stock was momentarily halted, for about 20 minutes while WWE issued a press release, confirming Vince’s return to the board, as well as the appointments of Wilson and Barrios.

“Today, we announce that the founder of WWE, Vince McMahon, will be returning to the Board,” said Chairwoman & Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon, Co-CEO Nick Khan and Chief Content Officer Paul Levesque. “We also welcome back Michelle Wilson and George Barrios to our Board of Directors. Together, we look forward to exploring all strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value.”

Saved for the end of the statement, WWE revealed that independent directors Man Jit Singh and Ignace Lahoud were leaving the board immediately. Singh was the lead independent director and the leading board member involved in the company’s investigation into McMahon and Laurinaitis’s alleged misconduct.

A short time later Stephanie McMahon sent an email to all WWE employees announcing a meeting later in the day where she, president and chief financial officer Frank Riddick, and Nick Khan would address Vince’s return.

Meanwhile, WWE’s share price continued climbing, getting as high as $89 during the trading day before closing at $84, up 17% in one day, rising to a market capitalization of about $6.5 billion.

Google Finance

Among the most plausible potential buyers of WWE include Comcast, which is the parent of NBCUniversal, which televises Raw, the WWE Network library and premium live events, and NXT, among other content.

Research firm LightShed argues Endeavor, a talent agency and also the parent of UFC, is the best fit to buy WWE.

Others speculate that media companies like Disney, Netflix, or Fox might be interested in acquiring WWE.

Front Office Sports reports that the Saudi Public Investment Fund may have interest in biding on WWE. The Saudi government already has a deal for two major WWE events per year in Saudi Arabia, paying the wrestling company $100 million annually. Saudi Arabia is invested in sports organizations currently, including the new LIV Golf league and Premier League team Newcastle United.

At the all-hands meeting that evening, WWE executives tried to reassure employees that normal business would continue despite Vince’s return.

“In terms of the day-to-day of the company, nothing is changing,” Khan said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by Wrestlenomics. “Steph is in her role, I’m in my role, Frank’s in his role, Paul is in his role, Kevin Dunn is in his role.”

Riddick explained the variety of outcomes that are possible related to Vince’s return and pursuit of so-called “strategic alternatives”.

“[It] could include a broad range of potential transactions, everything from a combination with another company, an acquisition of the company by someone, or a take-private transaction, taking the company private and/or just simply some sort of cooperation joint venture agreement.”

Stephanie McMahon credited employees with the company’s success and tried to put a positive spin on her father’s return.

“So again thank you to all of you. This is an exciting time,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a scary time. It’s an exciting time for WWE. Our founder is back on the board and is going to help lead this process.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2022

WWE shares continued climbing through Tuesday, reaching $90 at the close of the market.

Later that evening, Stephanie McMahon announced her permanent resignation from the company.

She simultaneously sent an email to all WWE employees with the same paragraphs as seen in her public announcement in the tweet above, but added:

“WWE is the success that it is because of your hard work. You are the unsung heroes. No matter your position, your work contributes to our mission and makes a difference in people’s lives,” Stephanie wrote to all staff, to whom days earlier she’d given a message of stability and opportunity related to Vince’s return. “Thank you for your faith and trust, it has been an honor to work alongside you.”

Her reference to Paul Levesque as chief content officer seems to indicate her husband is continuing in that role.

Stephanie temporarily took a leave of absence on May 19, until she came back on June 17 to serve as interim CEO and chairwoman when Vince stepped down from those roles during the investigation into his alleged misconduct.

While Stephanie was away from the company, a Business Insider article in early June reported she was pushed out by her father.

It’s unclear if it’s related but WWE’s board of directors, by the time of her temporary exit, was already conducting an investigation into Vince’s conduct, which hadn’t been reported publicly yet by that time. Stephanie, who had long served as a member of the board, may have had knowledge of the investigation when she announced her leave.

Stephanie permanently resigned on Tuesday as co-CEO as well as from her position on WWE’s board.

Shortly after Stephanie’s announcement, WWE’s posted a press release reporting Vince McMahon was unanimously elected to the board’s chairman position.

The revelation came less than a month after the board — albeit with different membership — unanimously rejected the idea of Vince’s return.

The statement made clear Nick Khan is the sole CEO of the company.

The release published glowing comments from Vince, Stephanie, and Khan, about Stephanie’s departure.

“First, I’d like to express my full support for Stephanie’s personal decision,” Vince says of his daughter. “I’ll forever be grateful that she offered to step in during my absence and I’m truly proud of the job she did co-leading WWE. Stephanie has always been the ultimate ambassador for our company, and her decades of contributions have left an immeasurable impact on our brand.”

“Stephanie McMahon is a terrific executive and an even better person. It has been an honor to serve as Co-CEO with her. She will only continue to succeed,” Khan says in the release.

Six of the eleven directors who were on the board on Friday either were removed or resigned by Tuesday night.

That adds to the exits of directors Connor Schell in July and Erika Nardini in September, although filings say they didn’t leave due to any dispute or disagreement.

Where are they now? Members of WWE’s board of directors in spring 2022:

  • Vince McMahon (interim resigned June 17; resigned permanently July 22; returned January 6)
  • Connor Schell (resigned July 6)
  • Erika Nardini (resigned September 15)
  • Jeffrey Speed (removed January 6)
  • Alan Wexler (removed January 6)
  • Man Jit Singh (resigned January 6)
  • Ignace Lahoud (resigned January 6)
  • Stephanie McMahon (resigned January 10)
  • Nick Khan
  • Paul Levesque
  • Steve Pamon
  • Steve Koonin

Later on Tuesday night, rumors and speculation spread that the Saudi Public Investment Fund was near or perhaps already had a deal in principle to buy WWE.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

By Wednesday morning, there were multiple reports, including from Wrestlenomics, denying that such a transaction was imminent or had been completed.

In a disclosure that will surprise no one, a filing published Wednesday evening confirms former board members Man Jit Singh and Ignace Lahoud resigned on Friday because they disagreed with Vince’s return to the company.

“While Messrs. Lahoud and Singh agreed with the Board’s decision to explore the Company’s strategic alternatives,” the filing states, “they did not agree with Mr. McMahon’s return at this time.”

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


Support quality reporting on the wrestling business