Brandon Thurston – July 28, 2022
On Friday evening last week, shortly after Vince McMahon announced his retirement from the company amid investigations into his alleged misconduct, all WWE employees were instructed that they may not buy or sell company shares until further notice.
The message addressed to all staff was relayed to Wrestlenomics by multiple people who have seen the email. The message indicated it was written by senior vice president and assistant general counsel, James Langham.
“Please be advised that, in light of recent developments, the Company’s trading window has closed effective immediately for all employees,” Langham’s message stated.
“Until further notice you are prohibited from any purchases or sales of Company securities. You are also instructed not to speak with others about this note.”
WWE staff are often granted stock units as part of their compensation.
The company’s insider trading policy, published on WWE’s corporate website, indicates that “Designated Persons” — who are defined as executive officers, members of the board of directors, and employees with titles of executive vice president and above — are prohibited from trading WWE shares during the time between the last day of any calendar quarter (June 30, for example) and two trading days after the following earnings release date.
The company wrote in a filing published Monday that August 9 is being targeted for the next quarterly earnings report, but noted, “there is no assurance that [the company] will be able to meet this deadline.”
August 9 is a few days later than our anticipated earnings report date of August 4. The delay and uncertainty about when WWE will report earnings is related to needing to reissue financial reporting going back to 2019, due to McMahon’s non-disclosure agreement payments that recently came to light and that the company determined should have been recorded as company expenses.
The insider trading policy establishes that any employees who are in possession of material nonpublic information may also be subject to “blackouts” which prohibit them from making stock moves.
The policy directs that employees “shall not disclose the existence of the ‘blackout’ [period] to any other person.”
It’s unclear why all employees have been prevented from making stock transactions, or whether there’s a rationale that all employees may be considered to currently be in possession of material nonpublic information.
Wrestlenomics reached out to both a WWE spokesperson and Langham for comment but have yet to receive a response from either on this story.
The “blackout” period for all employees is apparently still in effect as of the publishing of this report. Multiple people with knowledge of WWE internal communications aren’t aware, as of Thursday afternoon, of any update to Langham’s message sent last week Friday evening to all staff.
WWE shares traded for $69.49 at the close of the market on Thursday, up 4.9% since McMahon officially left the company after the close of the market on Friday.
Stock analysts including those from Loop Capital, MKM Partners, Barclays, and Benchmark raised their price targets on WWE since McMahon’s announcement. Loop’s Alan Gould noted it’s more likely WWE may be sold now that McMahon is no longer working for the company.
CNBC reported on Tuesday that WWE wasn’t in discussions to sell the company, citing a person familiar with the matter.