Is Comcast Out of the Running to Buy WWE?

Comcast might be out of the running to buy WWE, according to a couple of new reports from this weekend. When WWE first announced its intention to sell to a major media corporation, Comcast was named as an obvious bidder given the multiple deals it already has with WWE to air both Monday Night Raw and NXT on the USA Network each week and house the WWE Network library and live pay-per-views on its Peacock streaming service. 

However, it now sounds like NBCUniversal's parent company has lost interest. CNBC's David Faber interviewed WWE CEO Nick Khan on Friday and when the subject of Comcast was brought up he claimed, "I'm actually hearing probably not. I hate to say it. Although another name I do hear is Endeavor. The idea of bringing together UFC and WWE would be very robust."

Khan tried to push back, saying, "I think they're all possible and we're still bullish on Comcast being possible. Obviously, there's only so much I can say at this moment. But we certainly got a warm reaction in the marketplace from people who seem interested." He later said investors can expect the sale to be "quick," speculating that a sale might be agreed to within the next three months.

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer then echoed Faber's report and added that it's in WWE's best interest to make it sound like Comcast is still in the running to other bidders. He noted on a recent Wrestling Observer Radio, "They need to make it look like people want them, but it word is out that Comcast doesn't, that might hurt the sale, because that might lower the value."

One of the big questions surrounding WWE's sale is Vince McMahon, who initially announced his retirement last July but then approached the WWE Board of Directors in December and demanded to be reinstated as a member and the Executive Chairman. WWE's Board initially declined, prompting McMahon to threaten to use the voting power he still holds through his Class B stock ownership to shoot down any potential sale or future media rights deal. He was promptly reinstated in early January, which was followed by a major reshuffling of the WWE Board that included former Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon's departure. 

Khan was asked during a quarterly investors conference call this past week about whether or not McMahon will willingly leave after the company is sold — "Yes (he'll step down). Without question. He's declared it to the board, he's declared it to us in management. It's all about shareholder value. Obviously, he is a shareholder, so it's not about what role he'll have, it's about maximizing that value opportunity."