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Vince McMahon. Image Credit: Reuters

Vince McMahon Returns to WWE's Board, Seeking a Possible Sale

Vince McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.'s controlling shareholder and former chief executive officer, is returning to the company's board as the company begins exploring strategic options.

McMahon, who retired last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct, won't be involved in day-to-day operations, according to a statement Friday. The former CEO said Thursday that the business should review its strategy, including considering a possible sale.

On Friday, WWE's Chairwoman Stephanie McMahon said the company will begin "exploring all strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value."

Shares of Stamford, Connecticut-based WWE jumped as much as 24% to $89.43. It was their biggest increase since July 2015 and the company is now valued at about $6.5 billion.

In a statement, WWE said McMahon is returning to the board along with former WWE executives Michelle Wilson and George Barrios. McMahon, who is WWE's controlling shareholder, also removed JoEllen Lyons Dillon, Jeffrey R. Speed and Alan M. Wexler from the board. Two other board members "- Ignace Lahoud and Man Jit Singh - have resigned, the statement said.

McMahon, who ran the wrestling giant for decades, said earlier that with its TV rights coming up for renewal, it's a good time to review the company's options. He cited the growing demand for live events that attract viewers and how media companies want to own the content on their platforms. Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal broadcasts WWE matches on its Peacock streaming service and USA cable network while Fox Corp. airs WWE's Friday Night SmackDown.

"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," McMahon said.

Exploring a sale "makes a lot of sense" and Comcast "seems like a good fit," said Eric Handler, managing director at MKM Partners. The business would attract a large bidding pool given its size and worldwide popularity, Handler wrote in a note.

Comcast declined to comment about whether it would consider purchasing the business.

WWE's board has been investigating McMahon for payments he made over the past 16 years to settle allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity.

The company has said it found payments that McMahon agreed to make personally from 2006 through 2022 that should have been recorded as expenses by the company. It has also said it has received "regulatory, investigative and enforcement inquiries, subpoenas or demands" related to the matters.

McMahon has said he'll cooperate with the probe and accept its findings.

McMahon's return to WWE's board could lead to a complicated family dynamic. WWE is now run by his daughter, chairwoman and co-CEO McMahon, and Co-CEO Nick Khan. The two also serve on the board, along with Paul Levesque, who is chief content officer and Stephanie McMahon's husband. The 77-year-old Vince McMahon owns 92% of the company's Class B shares, which have 10 votes each.