CEO Vince McMahon has basically agreed to sell 15% of his stock in the company he founded, contributing to one analyst’s decision to slap a “sell” rating on the shares Wednesday.
WWE last year had promised a transformative deal, presumably selling the WWE Network to a large streaming company. The expectation was that if a deal were struck, it would occur in the first quarter, prior to Wrestlemania 36, which starts April 4,” said analyst Alan Gould of Loop Capital in a note to investors Wednesday. “We do not believe Mr. McMahon would be entering a prepaid forward contract on 15% of his shares – about 3.5 million of them – in front of such an announcement.
Yesterday, the company disclosed in an SEC filing that McMahon entered into just that – something called a prepaid variable forward contract. It’s transaction that basically functions as a cash advance. McMahon agreed to sell the shares at a future date – in March of 2024. He gets the cash now, about $80 million, Bloomberg calculated, but doesn’t have to turn over the stock or pay taxes on the sale until then.
Gould said the the company is financially strong and its business, taking a hit from coronavirus, is likely to bounce back, but not to where it had been.
“Wrestlemania will not be the same spectacle it typically is out of the Orlando Performance Center as opposed to Tampa Stadium in front of 70,000+ live fans,” he said. WWE was forced to move Wrestlemania to the Orlando Center and air the event without fans. The show will generate less revenue and likely less ongoing WWE Network subscribers. It’s been a driver, responsible for the largest number of gross adds each year to the WWE Network and a recurring monthly revenue generator. However, the event will lose its ticket and most of its merchandise and sponsorship revenue.
He also noted that ratings have been slipping on Raw and NXT. He’s concerned WWE won’t be able to continue to provide live weekly TV shows if its stars are getting sick or if the government requires social distancing.
WWE pulled its financial guidance on March 12, as many other companies have done. Gould has lowered estimates, particularly the second quarter, due to the coronavirus impact.
WWE shares were down 5.8% in an up market.
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