Saudi Public Investment Fund Could Bid on WWE

LIV Golf may be just the beginning.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has emerged as a bidder for WWE if the promotion goes up for sale, sources told Front Office Sports.

PIF manages approximately $620 billion in assets. Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment company could be the next step in global sports expansion.

WWE has a deep history with Saudi Arabia, hosting the Crown Jewels, WWE Live and Greatest Royal Rumble events in recent years. WWE has a 10-year deal with him to host two live events a year in the Kingdom.

LightShed Partners analyst Brandon Ross told Front Office Sports: “Saudis already account for a significant portion of the company’s profitability with these two alone. [Saudi-based WWE] event alone. They’re trying to be relevant in the entertainment world. “

Some of the biggest stars in WWE history have fought in this realm, including Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Triple H.

In 2019, WWE staged the nation’s first ever women’s match featuring Natalya and Lacey Evans.

Saudis are growing their interest in sports.

PIF has been majority owner of English Premier League club Newcastle United since 2021.

Last year, the company spent at least $2 billion to fund LIV Golf’s global PGA TOUR challenge.

The source nailed WWE’s other potential suitors with:

  • Amazon has entered the U.S. sports business in a big way with a $1 billion annual deal to exclusively stream the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” through 2033.
  • Comcast’s NBCUniversal Media and Fox Corp. already boast media rights deals for “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown,” respectively.
  • Endeavor purchased a controlling interest in the UFC for $4 billion in 2016.
  • Liberty Media acquired F1 for $4.4 billion in 2016.
  • Global talent agency CAA.

If PIF were to run for WWE, it would again raise the question of whether Saudi Arabia is “trying to wash away with sports” its history of human rights violations and treatment of women.

The 2018 killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi highlights the question of their affiliation.

If the Saudis want WWE, they may face other hurdles. Given LIV’s inability to secure a US media rights deal, there is the question of whether US media companies want to partner with her PIF.

Meanwhile, WWE President Nick Karn will lead negotiations for media rights. The former CAA superagent has deep ties across sports media, and as WWE reestablishes itself as a media giant with his valuable IP assets, he’s heading into the next cycle of rights fiercely. You are expected to make a deal.

Rumors of a possible WWE sale have circulated since longtime boss Vince McMahon resigned this summer after a sexual misconduct scandal.

McMahon, the company’s controlling shareholder, rocked Wall Street with his return on Thursday.

The 77-year-old said his comeback was necessary as the company explored “strategic options” and began media rights talks.

In a statement, McMahon said, “WWE has made significant changes to media rights in light of the growing industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and the growing number of companies seeking to own intellectual property on their platforms. It stands at a critical crossroads in its history, with negotiations looming.

“The only way WWE can take full advantage of this opportunity is for me to return as Executive Chairman and support management in negotiating media rights, combined with considering strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE and our counterparties to engage in these processes with the knowledge that they will have the support of their controlling shareholders.”

WWE referred questions about the deal to McMahon’s statement, and PIF was not available for comment.

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