WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon just shed a little bit of light on last week’s shocking firings of co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson. A little bit.
“As you know, recently, I announced a management transition,” McMahon said Thursday on WWE’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 earnings conference call. “This decision did not reflect a change in our strategy. It was made after careful consideration.”
“We remain highly focused on growing the value of our content, furthering international expansion, engaging fans across all platforms,” he continued. “The decision of management transition was based on a different view of execution over areas of focus.”
“Over 10 years, supported by a strong management team, George Barrios and Michelle [Wilson] made more than significant contributions to WWE. However, with the change, we won’t miss a beat,” McMahon promised. “We have a deep team of talented executives committed to our company who are more than capable of executing our strategy.
At that time, shares were selling for less than $50 apiece — just four days after WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view event. This Thursday, after WWE reported its fourth-quarter earnings, stock sunk all the way to $40 per share.
WWE stock has been as high as $100 per share in the past year.
McMahon & Co. says they’re working on finalizing big deals in the Middle East and in India, and are exploring opportunities to sell content rights — including those for the company’s valuable pay-per-view events — with “major” streaming services. Such a potential licensing deal would be announced this quarter, McMahon said, and it would be “transformative.”
When Barrios and Wilson were first let go, McMahon said the following in a statement: “I would like to thank George and Michelle for their 10+ years of service and contributions to the organization. I am grateful for all that was accomplished during their tenure, but the board and I decided a change was necessary as we have different views on how best to achieve our strategic priorities moving forward.”
McMahon continued: “We have a deep team of talented, experienced and committed executives across the organization, and the board and I have great confidence in our collective abilities to create compelling content, engage our global fanbase across platforms, increase revenues, and drive shareholder value.”
A search for Barrios and Wilson’s replacement(s) is underway. In the meantime, Frank Riddick has been named interim CFO. For now, McMahon says he’ll have a few more direct reports and will shoulder the rest himself.
Vince also said this on the conference call: “Who wouldn’t want to work for WWE?”
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