Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to Keep Sportswashing by Buying WWE?
The PIF controls about $620 billion in assets and already owns LIV Golf
The owner of a sports series that many consider to be a heel may continue to try its hand at sportswashing by buying another professional league with some serious ties to scandal.
The benefactor of LIV Golf, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is considering buying Vince McMahon‘s WWE if the pro wrestling league puts itself up for sale, according to Front Office Sports. The WWE, which recently welcomed McMahon back as the company’s executive chairman after he retired amid allegations of sexual misconduct, is exploring “strategic alternatives” and has also been linked to possible purchasers including Amazon, NBCUniversal Media and Fox.
“In the same way they did LIV, there’s an unlimited faucet of dollars there,” LightShed Partners analyst Brandon Ross told Front Office Sports. “The Saudis are already a decent part of the profitability of the company just on those two [Saudi-based WWE] events alone. They’re trying to be relevant in the entertainment world.”
The PIF, which controls about $620 billion in assets and has served as the majority owner of Newcastle United in the EPL since 2021, could make a lot of sense as a buyer for the WWE as the wresting series has held events in Saudi Arabia for many years even though star wrestlers like John Cena have refused to participate. However, considering how LIV Golf has struggled to gain mainstream traction in the U.S. due to its backer and is still without a media rights contract with a major partner, a deal with the PIF could end up damaging the WWE in the long run. That said, it’s fair to question whether the PIF would actually care as there certainly hasn’t seemed to be much concern about the public perception of LIV Golf and its roster of PGA Tour defectors.
“WWE is entering a critical juncture in its history with the upcoming media rights negotiations coinciding with increased industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and with more companies seeking to own the intellectual property on their platforms,” McMahon, 77, said in a statement upon his return. “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. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”
The company has hired JPMorgan to advise on the potential sale, per CNBC.
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