Khan told Bill Simmons that he “commends” the elder McMahon for regaining control of his company, won’t comment on the “family business,” and says all options are on the table when it comes to a potential sale.
Nick Khan, the remaining CEO of WWE, was Bill Simmons’ guest The latest edition of the Founder Ranger podcast.
The two men spoke for about an hour, delving into what’s been going on in WWE since the Vince McMahon scandal broke last summer. Most of their discussion has been about the past few weeks since McMahon used his controlling shareholder influence to come back to lead a potential sale of WWE and/or its next round of media rights contracts – a time that saw Vince’s daughter step down as president. & Co-CEO, and plenty of rumors about other internal changes and potential buyers.
From his point of view, Khan says, Vince McMahon will never come back. Stephanie says she shares this belief:
“When you’re in, you see things coming. My thinking was there’s only one boss in the company, and that’s not me. I think it’s always been my view, Stephanie’s view that he’s coming back.”
It’s a point Khan reiterated later in the interview, while discussing Vince’s “retirement”:
“You know, when he stepped down, no one ever knew him thought that always. It would never have happened, but I appreciate the fact that he gave it five or six months, let the dust settle for a bit, and then came back the way he did.”
As for how Vince returns, ignoring the board’s unanimous request that he remain retired and using his control of 81% of the voting shares to change the bylaws and membership of the board to ensure his return?
“The way he played me was clever in that he went away for five or six months and people, the public, seem to like it when someone does that, and he comes back and takes back control of his company as a shareholder in the company. So it’s a public company as a public company. But with That said, the controlling stake gave him a lot of power and he used it, and I applaud him for doing so.”
Simmons asked if Vince risked harm to the company he allegedly returned to help, and Khan responded with two apples and oranges: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his handling of Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident in 2014, and Simmons’ own relatively scandal-free rise. From ESPN blogger to media mogul:
“[In reference to Goodell] Well, no advertiser escaped. Ratings are not low. The product seems to keep building. Why is he resigning? why did he do that? I think it’s only a three mile radius from Los Angeles. “Hey, step down. And you know, you should be punished for that. It wasn’t like that.”
“So I think for someone like Vince – and you [Simmons] And it’s two different people, but you’re both founding CEOs and I think founding CEOs are different from regular CEOs. To me, WWE is Vince, and Vince is WWE, and we’re going to do everything we can to continue building the company.”
The lawyer and former talent agent dismisses the idea that Vince was “pushed” to return to the company:
“I didn’t see it as a force. I think Vince saw a lot of things come to him and us, and he thought that one thing he always said, he’d do whatever was best for the business. In that moment, he saw it was best for him to stay away for a while, so he did.
He also disputed the notion (articulated in both investor lawsuits against Vince Power) that longtime McMahon associates Michelle Wilson and George Barrios are “friends” that Vince put on the board to seal his actions, but Khan’s interpretation essentially restates the claim In friendlier legal terms:
“[As] The controlling shareholder, Vince, will manage this operation [of evaluating strategic alternatives like a sale of the company]. So to have board members who understand that with the controlling shareholder, “that’s going to be the case,” and people who are going to adopt this, I think that was a deciding factor. “
Khan says that while he and others visited his boss during his “retirement,” these were social visits. Vince was inactive during the time he was away, and Khan expects it to stay that way now that he’s president again:
“He really got away. He wasn’t there, why would you do this? I wouldn’t do it that way. It was complete freedom for Stephanie and me and Triple H on the creative side. It’s only been a week, but I think what he said publicly about ‘I’m here to participate in strategic alternatives in Media rights,” so far participation has been those and other board issues.”
There is no official succession plan for when Vince will stop running WWE, or it will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But Khan says he believes the team that has led the company in Vince’s absence was “the succession plan in place.” [Vince’s] Mind_mind”. In describing the timeline and thought process behind the 77-year-old’s return, Khan never felt like Vince was resentful of being sidelined:
“I never felt any kind of bitterness from him or anything. He seemed, in the first month of his hiatus, pleased. You think how hard he works, it would be great to have a month off. He went to Italy, whatever it was, the things we all wish he’d We get to do it while we’re in the Empire Building mix.The first month was amazing.
“I think by month five, he was gearing up for a comeback. The strategic alternative process is a real one, he’s been thrilled with it. I’ve never seen any hotness from him from anyone in WWE or with WWE. No comment from him, definitely me and I’ve been in touch with him. So much so, there is no ‘why did Paul [Levesque, aka Triple H] and employs this? Why did Stephanie do that? There was none of that.”
Simmons tried to bring up the topic of Stephanie’s exit, but Khan mostly avoided it:
“I don’t get involved in the family business. That’s rule number one.”
Later, he reiterated what the younger McMahon had said in her public resignation statement, offering a version of the professional wrestling axiom “never say never” when asked about Stephen dating himself:
“At this moment in time, I think she felt like her work was done in the moment. Nothing is permanent. Life is long, let’s see.”
As for the possibility of more stories of his boss’ sexual misconduct in the future (something that was inferred in a December board letter trying to block Vince’s return), Khan is confident that all is already known:
“It’s like whatever happened, happened and he’s out there. And people know I’ve always found him to be a very honest broker with these things. So even when I started the process last summer, there was nothing to hide, there was nothing to hide. I think he was very honest.” About that and I appreciate that, and I think a lot of other people have, too.”
Khan also downplayed the potential impact of civil litigation against Vince from people like Rita Chatterton, who claims Vince raped her when she was working for the WWF at the time in the 1980s (a claim he has always denied), on potential buyers’ decision making:
“I think everyone is moving on. Because in all of this business there is no clean, clear path. There is always some obstacle, something in the way, some obstacle in the way that you have to get around or get over. So I see that as any other element like it.”
Speaking of selling WWE, Khan dismissed the Saudi Arabia rumors last week as “100% fake, 100% made up.” There was no way a deal could be legally concluded in such a short time frame. But by comparing Vince again to Simmons, he seems to acknowledge that some of the rules may have been bent up to this point, which could be taken as evidence indicating that McMahon was talking to entities like the SIF before returning to the board:
As for the rules, I haven’t seen you [Simmons] Follow those many rules at your previous employer [ESPN]. You did it the way you thought it needed to be done, and in the end your work stood out. To follow these rules, I had to imagine it was hard for a while to get around them.
“[It wasn’t] Tough for us because the company has been publicly traded for so long, and you understand that the rules are really the rules of the SEC, and nobody wants to break any of them. Permission imminent announcement that it is already sold or [gone private]Of course, if you look at it and connect the dots, it doesn’t make any sense at all. As for what the actual process might be, we’re starting it now.”
However, the CEO does not expect the exercise to continue indefinitely, regardless of its results:
So in this process, [Vince is] There to supervise him, he is his controlling share. I’m involved in it. Triple H is involved in that. The board of directors is clearly in on it with Triple H on the board, because I’m lucky I am too. We’ll see how it goes. It shouldn’t be a long process.”
When Vince and WWE say they’re exploring all of their strategic options, Khan says they mean it. Including selling only a piece or pieces of the company:
“When he uses the term ‘strategic alternative,’ it doesn’t have to be bland. Basically, we look at everything.
If he says I am looking to sell the company what does that mean? Pieces of it, whole? Are you incorporating the company? Would you buy another company instead of selling? Are you selling the entire company? A lot of it will come down to the price, but I don’t think all of it. What is the best shareholder value? What is Vince’s best value after shareholder? So the stock after the announcement [of Vince’s return]Flying high – how much is someone going to bid on that making it a deal they want to make? “
Khan also reiterated that it would not make sense to negotiate new TV/broadcast deals before selling options are explored, so potential sale scenarios are explored first. He generally covered potential buyers, including the usual suspects (Comcast, NBC Universal, Amazon, Disney, Fox, Netflix, Endeavor) and brought up the possibility of another mega-rich buying WWE such as real estate billionaire Matt Ichpeia’s imminent purchase of the Phoenix Suns. NBA franchise.
When Simmons asked if Nick viewed a particular wealthy person, AEW’s Tony Khan, as a threat, he replied:
“I don’t feel threatened by anyone over anything. It’s just not how I work. I don’t care what anyone else does. I care what we do. And as long as we can have the best product with the best talent and the best writers, I think we’ll be in good shape.” “.
You can find the full Nick Khan look at The Bill Simmons Show here.