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Forbes reports: Vince McMahon loses a third of his wealth in a day
May 20, 2014 9:50 AM   Subscribe

WWE CEO is no longer a billionaire, Forbes reports. His attempts to generate new revenue by reshaping the way fans consume his product have "imploded", according to Business Insider. Meanwhile, Paul Levesque, aka Triple H, strives to rebuild WWE from within.
posted by jwhite1979 (54 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
world's smallest violin
posted by mondo dentro at 9:56 AM on May 20 [23 favorites]


What the hell? I can't believe Forbes would make such a junior-grade mistake but stocks don't work that way. He only loses 350 million if he sells his stock. He's not gonna sell. WWE did a bad job of managing expectations, but they still nearly doubled the TV rights fees, will be on the netwroks they are on for years to come, and amassed over 650-thousand subscribers to the Network service in only two months, givnig them plenty of time to hit a million subscriber goal.

The stock had been sort of over-valued for a while now, this is p much just a course correction.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:58 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


There's an interesting story here but whether or not a CEO is still a billionaire (rather than just a multi-hundred millionaire) isn't it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:05 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


Yeah. I suspect the WWE is poised for slow, long-term growth, but that's very much not what was projected by McMahon to investors; thus, his billionaire status was kind of pretend all along. But to your point specifically, if, say, the dollar inflates rapidly relative to world currency, can't we rightly say that investors in American securities have lost much of their capital? Doesn't the devaluation of one's capital in itself constitute a loss of wealth? (English major here. Not finance-literate.)
posted by jwhite1979 at 10:06 AM on May 20


What the hell? I can't believe Forbes would make such a junior-grade mistake but stocks don't work that way. He only loses 350 million if he sells his stock.

It's generally accepted that one's stock holdings are counted as one's personal wealth.

The stock had been sort of over-valued for a while now, this is p much just a course correction.

That's true, but McMahon (and therefore WWE) has always been overblown ("THE BIGGEST MATCH OF ALL TIME!" "THE BIGGEST WRESTLEMANIA EVER!"). That works great in the world of wrestling, but not so much in the world of finance.
posted by Etrigan at 10:08 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


What the hell? I can't believe Forbes would make such a junior-grade mistake but stocks don't work that way

If they played by those rules at all times, lots of "millionaires" wouldn't be, and lots of "billionaires" wouldn't be either. Bill Gates probably doesn't keep billions in cash sitting around, but he's definitely considered a billionaire. Treating stock as part of net worth for large-scale wealth ranking is pretty standard and it's absolutely a convention, not a "mistake" on the part of Forbes.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:08 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]


Well, the good news is he already lost a lot of money when his wife ran for office twice and lost, so he's used to burning piles of cash.
posted by glaucon at 10:08 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Product placement marketing idea: Bill Murray should hand out Wrestlemania tickets in another movie.
posted by michaelh at 10:10 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


In case you find the hook of an interesting story being made all about a billionaire (not really) losing his fortune not cringeworthy enough please note the tag line of the reporter Dan Alexander, Forbes Staff

I track billionaires’ fortunes and write about America’s comeback.

something something supressing urge to smash something into a turnbuckle
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:10 AM on May 20 [9 favorites]


It's a shame that this has been the reaction. The network is a pretty fantastic idea, and they're pretty much the only game in town when it comes to saying, hey, we've got all this in our library, who wants to check it out? The NBA and NFL have networks, but they choose the programing you see. I'm hoping the WWE network pans out, just for the possibilities it represents. Then again, I'm still waiting for it to come to Japan, and hoping that it won't be neutered (like, say, Hulu, which never had much content, and was then spun off into a Japanese company that has even less).

Aside from all the pressure coming from investors that are too focused on the immediate present, rather than the potential involved, there's also a lot of pressure internally. Making the pay-per-views 'free' on the network pissed off DirecTV and the other companies that carried them, and I believe DirecTV has stopped carrying them all together, though that might have changed. For the wrestlers, there's been a lot of talk about the loss of PPV bonuses, which were a huge supplement to their income. Getting on a PPV card for some of the lower level wrestlers was huge for them. Batista's recent return might already be over, or at least very diminished, with him claiming the company lied to him about his potential for earnings (he was slated to headline several PPVs, and was in line for some handsome bonus payments). The locker room is evidently pretty pissed about those bonuses drying up, which could be another nail in the coffin.

The biggest problem (anecdotally, from discussions online) is that, while little kids can badger their parents into buying John Cena merch, parents are drawing the line at buying the network for their kids. Meanwhile, the people buying it, the 'hardcore' fans are increasingly alienated by the uber PG nature of the current shows, with more and more restrictive McMahon edicts about words (can't say 'belt', 'wrestle', 'wrestler' or a ton of other words, faces are supposed to smile, no matter what happened in the match, and, of course, most bizarrely, the faces have been the most repugnant characters on the show, while the heels have been the most logical and are usually the 'right' ones in the conflict).

Like I said, I can't wait for it to debut in Japan, though I wonder if they'll have caved and bumped up the price, or if it will be severely restricted by the time it comes out. It's a bold, pretty awesome move, and I hope, in the long run, it works out.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:14 AM on May 20 [8 favorites]


something something supressing urge to smash something into a turnbuckle

You could always smash the world's tiniest violin into the world's tiniest turnbuckle.
posted by yoink at 10:16 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


WWE CEO is no longer a billionaire, Forbes reports.

Sadness accrues.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:20 AM on May 20


TRIPLE H FEARS AMBROSE
posted by vrakatar at 10:22 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


something something supressing urge to smash something into a turnbuckle

You could always smash the world's tiniest violin into the world's tiniest turnbuckle.


Yeah, but then you have to find the world's smallest Honky Tonk Man, and that just gets skeevy.
posted by Etrigan at 10:24 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


McMahon: Well, you know you're exactly right, Mean Gene. One year ago, brother, me and The Stockbroker were as one. We were best of friends. We would do anything to win together, brother. And if you would've told me one year later right in the very same place that it started, in the NYSE that we'd be locking horns, going head on head for the WWE fortune, I'd a called you a liar, Mean Gene!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on May 20 [11 favorites]


Looks like Adam Smith's invisible hand whacked him with a steel chair
posted by Renoroc at 10:24 AM on May 20 [14 favorites]


I haven't followed wrestling in years, but the last article about Triple H's influence seems like a positive development. Vinnie Mac has always been his own worst enemy, letting his ego get in the way of putting out the best show. I just hope Trip doesn't turn into another version of Kevin "Big Poochie" Hall.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:25 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Well to sort of defend Shawnstruck, yes, the value of his shares is a part of his net worth, and sure his net worth on paper is a lot less than it was before. But he wasn't going to actually sell the stock back when it was worth over a billion, and he's not going to sell it now that it's not. What he is is the guy who owns 52% of WWE and makes a very comfortable living running it.
posted by Naberius at 10:27 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Did no one read this part, "The company’s shares shot up 89% in the first three months of 2014, and McMahon’s net worth peaked in mid-March at $1.6 billion But shares dropped 29% the week after WWE announced its new online streaming network had only 667,000 subscribers."

Unless I miss my math he's still up relative to two months ago.
posted by vapidave at 10:31 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


I just hope Trip doesn't turn into another version of Kevin "Big Poochie" Hall.

Levesque has been the official head booker for several years now, dating from before the current high point in the cycle; and a backstage power-wielder for well over a decade. He's learned how to step back when necessary and how to put over someone else when it's (to coin a phrase) better for business. He seems to have accepted that his time at the top of the card is over, and that his best work is going to be securing his legacy as an executive -- he didn't end up being the next Ric Flair, but he can end up being the next Vince McMahon, and one of those guys is broke as hell and still has to wrestle despite being eligible for Medicare.
posted by Etrigan at 10:35 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I wonder to what extent there is a tech divide for the hardcore fans (your WWE network audience), with people not owning devices or smart TVs and not really understanding the value of the network or how it works. The promos are as much "how-to" and "it's just like Netflix!" as talking about the content and what $10/month gets you. If you are a regular PPV purchaser it is a slam-dunk, price-wise, but if you don't have a PS3 or Apple TV or Roku, you may not understand there are ways to get the content on your big ass TV and not just your little computer screen. And there's a lot of concern/expectation that the price has got to increase. I'd pay $15/month but $20 would be pushing it.

To really take off, the network needs more "mainstream," internet-savvy fans - but the product they're putting out isn't quite there. There are no mainstream crossover stars like the Rock or Steve Austin right now. As Ghidorah pointed out, the babyface characters suck, the supposed heels are the most compelling characters, and the company's seems unable to string together an entire year's worth of interesting plots. And then your one good babyface, the WWE champion, is injured and will be out for who knows how long. They did a mostly good job in the run-up to WM30 but since then it's like all creative's brainpower was used up. The stories now feel directionless and repetitive. Where's the new, good talent? Barrett's a good start, but then they spend all this time putting fucking Rob Van Dam over or having old man Kane beat up Bryan again.
posted by misskaz at 10:38 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Hi my name is kaz and i have wrestling feelings
posted by misskaz at 10:41 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]


I just hope Trip doesn't turn into another version of Kevin "Big Poochie" Hall.

Kevin Nash (you merged him with Scott Hall) was sort of a different case because Nash was an active wrestler who was given power to book (write) his own angles, and whose obvious interest was in booking himself to be a bigger and bigger star at every possible opportunity.

Trips, on the other hand, is a McMahon-by-marriage, has been for years, and he is wealthy as fuck. He doesn't need, on a personal level, to be a big star any more, because he's now at a point where he's a semi-retired legend and can wrestle three or four matches a year, primarily existing to put over new talent. This isn't to say that he doesn't have ego issues - by all appearances he always has - but he smartly recognizes that the company needs new blood and new stars on an ongoing basis. It's not for nothing that Trips put over Daniel Bryan in the most dedicated way possible (losing to D-Bry in the WrestleMania opener after feuding with him for months, and then interfering in the main event match and getting punked out by D-Bry AGAIN), and then turned around and started putting over the Shield.

Really, if you want to see HHH's organizational philosophy, go look at NXT. He's bringing in indie talents left and right - the buzz this week is that he's offered Willie Mack and Kevin Steen developmental contracts, and those two guys are about as far from the classic WWE musclehead that Vince adores as you can get, but Trips wants them because they can work crowds and deliver exciting matches and good promos. He's pushing a more physical, exciting women's division (and you have to believe that's at least partially because he and Stephanie have three daughters). He's trying to develop every wrestler at once, give them all as much airtime and headspace as possible, because he's figured out that you can't choose who the Hogans and Rocks of the world will be; the crowd does it for you, so you give them as many options as possible and hope you get one or two megastars. And he's pushing training and health science because he wants his stars to be happy and have long working careers, both for just basic human reasons and because it makes business sense. (Also, who wants another bitter Youtube shoot video from an aging wrestler.)

WWE is going to be fine with Trips at the helm.
posted by mightygodking at 10:41 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


Is it weird that I don't really watch wrestling anymore but am still really interested in the story around it? Stuff like this thread and Shoemaker's columns on Grantland are totally fascinating to me.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:46 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Unless I miss my math he's still up relative to two months ago.

Those numbers don't paint a full picture and are misleading. WWE was trading around $31 two months ago, compared to $10.80 today....pretty much a classic head and shoulders formation before the recent gap down.
posted by malocchio at 10:47 AM on May 20


No seriously, though, this is a badly written article that also contains no new news. McMahon didn't lose any money, the network isn't going anywhere. The stock is back where it was a few months ago. It hit a bubble on the hope that WWE would do these amazing numbers. They're not amazing, but they're far from anything to sneeze at.

I mean, the share price is still up like 17% YTD and the dividend has remained constant. There's all this "Vince McMahon lost $350 million in a week!" schadenfreude nonsense, but at the same time there at the height of the bubble there weren't any articles claiming he 'made' $500 million in the preceding year, and for good reason. Personal net worth is by and large a really silly concept used by dumb people trying to rank who is "richer", and Vince has the same amount of money he did before the stock price fell (from its previously inflated value). He's not selling his shares in the company, and if he ever did it would be to another corporate entity for a negotiated price that would not be equal to the closing price of the shares at the time of the sale.
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:48 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


So..is WWE a 'buy'? Sure sounds like it.
posted by spicynuts at 11:03 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


The Network isn't quite as make-or-break as the Wrestlemania gamble was 30 years ago, but its success or failure does seem to be pretty important for the future of the company. It's not that there are any promotions who threaten, or could potentially threaten, the WWE's dominance of the industry, but that they're sinking a ton of money into a venture that requires that they not only maintain the quality of their PPV/special events, but also produce new content and curate archives.

On the up side, as everybody is noting, HHH is a tremendous back-office talent who obviously has a vision for the company that seems likely to renew interest from segments that have dropped off the WWE's radar in the last ten or so years. NXT is the most exciting product WWE has put out in a long time, but it will be interesting to see how those characters transition to the main product. What works in the small room (and on camera for the relatively-hardcore who watch) doesn't necessarily transition to the packed arena (whether that's up to the performer or the material he's given is another story, though).

The flip side is that the Reality Era is somewhat of a gamble. I've been thinking a lot about pro wrestling lately and, for me, it's almost performance art. You go to Cirque du Soliel or to a Broadway show and you're agreeing to immerse yourself in an unreal environment for a few hours. A pro wrestling show is, or ought to be, much the same, except that you're expected to participate by cheering and booing and holding up signs. In a small show, the performers might even interact with you directly.

The "Reality Era" mentality where there's a constant stream of news on Twitter and the Network and you're forced to think about what's real and what's a work--rather than the default being "everything is a work"--damages your ability to tell a coherent story. Mike Quackenbush is a bit of a crank, but I think his ideas about how to tell a story through wrestling, and the commitment to the story, are right on. I really wish Chikara came around more often, because it's a really great promotion.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:04 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


I have an offer for Vince. I will replace his lost millions if he can dribble this basketball 100 times.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:14 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]


Dude, I bought a burrito the other day and lost a third of my wealth. Pretty good burrito though.
posted by Mister_A at 12:21 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]


Andy Warhol interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund: "It's just so exciting I just don't know what to say."
posted by gman at 12:21 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Is it weird that I don't really watch wrestling anymore but am still really interested in the story around it? Stuff like this thread and Shoemaker's columns on Grantland are totally fascinating to me.

It's like keeping tabs on Vaudeville used to be, I imagine. Itinerant, constantly changing cast of characters, all colorful and wonderful, but equally interesting once they're out of their role. The friendships, loyalties, betrayals, rises, downfalls, recoveries and disappearances, in and out of the ring, all echoing around each other - actors are too divorced from their roles, and pop-stars and athletes are supposed to pretend they don't have roles. Wrestlers and kayfabe scratch an itch to be simultaneously inside, to understand the show behind the show, and to be outside, to enjoy the spectacle and fantasy.

When I was about to undergo gastric bypass, I hit up Youtube, and watched the wrestlers I admired as a really heavy kid and teenager - King Kong Bundy, The Big Bossman, Earthquake, Tugboat/Typhoon, Andre the Giant. I took some time to track down their biographies, and followed the arc of their careers and lives. I was mourning a self-image I had to get rid of to get healthy, and, well, it helped. A lot.

I dunno if I can sit down and watch a modern WWE spectacular, but I'll sit down and read articles like these all day.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:25 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


I was like that from just after the Benoit killings (when it became obvious that Chris was as much a victim as Nancy and Daniel) to right around the beginning of this year. WWE seems to be taking concussions in particular and injuries in general more seriously these days, so I feel like they've earned my eyeballs again.

I still can't watch everything -- there's just too damn much product -- but I watched WrestleMania and Extreme Rules nearly-live via the Network.
posted by Etrigan at 12:39 PM on May 20


the share price is still up like 17% YTD and the dividend has remained constant.

That's true, but as far as I know McMahon didn't buy in two months ago. Unless there's been some share buybacks, I bet he's had the same equity (or less) since the beginning. And since 1999, when the WWE IPOed at $17 a share and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the company's stock is down 54 percent. Compare this to the S&P 500 (an approximate barometer of the general market), which in the same timeframe is up 40 percent.

If anyone's curious about the nuts and bolts of the WWE as an investment, here's the "investors" page for the WWE. Pretty much every publicly traded company has one, where you can take detailed look at a business' financials, projections, SEC filings, and their various positive spins on bad news.
posted by joechip at 12:52 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I'll be interested to see what spike in WWE Network signups there is next year around December or January. They sell it in six month (or one year) subscriptions, and as someone who currently only pays for 2 PPVs a year, the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, I'm just waiting to buy in where my 6 months will cover those two. I suspect I'm not alone.
posted by jermsplan at 1:33 PM on May 20


malocchio, unless you're seeing peaks in that graph I don't, WWE stock history really isn't a head-and-shoulders pattern.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:59 PM on May 20


Etrigan: "That's true, but McMahon (and therefore WWE) has always been overblown ("THE BIGGEST MATCH OF ALL TIME!" "THE BIGGEST WRESTLEMANIA EVER!"). That works great in the world of wrestling, but not so much in the world of finance."

Unless you have a lot of houses to sell, BUY BABY BUY!
posted by symbioid at 3:02 PM on May 20


"those two guys are about as far from the classic WWE musclehead that Vince adores"

I haven't followed wrestling since my older son lost interest but WWE could certainly have used fewer Brock Lesnar types and more high-flyers like the Hardy Boyz, those guys were exciting.
posted by MikeMc at 4:41 PM on May 20


The network is a pretty fantastic idea, and they're pretty much the only game in town when it comes to saying, hey, we've got all this in our library, who wants to check it out?

Sounds like someone should check out the UFC Fight Pass!
posted by Jairus at 5:25 PM on May 20


Grantland's wrestling articles are great, though pretty irregular. For someone killing it multiple times a week, you should check out Brandon Stroud at uproxx. He does a best and worst of Raw, NXT, and most PPVs. He's also doing a retro best and worst of all of the old seasons of NXT, which used to be am awful, awful game show with no idea what it was doing. Those in particular are interesting because he's looking at them now, and is able to point out how things developed, which can be pretty fun, but yeah, they were bleak. One of the things I like about the guy is that he's not afraid to call out the bullshit sexism and homophobia that seems to be a staple of being a big face in WWE right now (Cena, the Rock, the announce team). At the moment, on of his recurring themes is pointing out the heel-like actions of the faces (bullying, sneak attacks, the aforementioned sexism and homophobic taunts), while outlining how the heels are, in fact, utterly justified in their responses, many times acting more face-like than anyone else.

Another bonus, Stroud has managed to develope a pretty regular group of commenters on his articles, with a pretty general atmosphere of good will and politeness. The discussions of his articles are usually as much fun to read as the articles themselves. Especially in terms of the network, where people point out old shows worth watching again.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:53 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]


I don't really even like wrestling all that much, and I've considered the WWE Network. It's a really fantastic deal with a ton of content for the price.

It should be noted I regularly make terrible decisions.
posted by graventy at 5:57 PM on May 20


malocchio, unless you're seeing peaks in that graph I don't, WWE stock history really isn't a head-and-shoulders pattern.

Left shoulder 2/20, head 3/21, right shoulder 4/21. Helps if you squint a little.
posted by malocchio at 6:51 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I think Paul and Stephanie have done a really good job this year behind the scenes. It seems like Vince is loosening his grip creatively and WrestleMania 30 really had the Paul/Stephanie stamp on it as the NXT push was everywhere from Cesaro winning the Battle Royale to the Bray Wyatt loss that didn't really end the feud with John Cena and the crowning of Daniel Bryan.

The WWE Network is also a masterstroke. It's a great value for customers who love the old content and even better for those who love the new and it will hit its subscriber targets easily over the next year.
posted by inturnaround at 7:21 AM on May 21


Helps if you squint a little.

On second thought, just buy some new glasses if you really think "he's still up relative to two months ago."
posted by malocchio at 7:37 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


It's way too easy to fall into a hole of watching old wrestling interviews. There is something about the backstory and trying to sort out what's real and fake that is bizarre and compelling. And yes, does it really matter just how rich McMahon is?
posted by chunking express at 8:49 AM on May 21


Per the always-smart-if-not-always-right David "The Masked Man" Shoemaker, Keep Calm and Ignore the WWE Stock Crash:
As of press time, WWE stock was trading for $10.95; it had basically been a $10 stock for the two years prior to the boom.... And even if [McMahon] doesn’t emerge from this more humble than before, there’s one thing we learned from WrestleMania 1 and the Monday-Night Wars: When Vince is in financial dire straits, good things usually happen.
posted by Etrigan at 8:41 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


For those of you following in Recent Activity, this might as well be the Payback discussion place, if anyone is bothering to watch it (me, I plan to catch up Monday morning-ish).
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 AM on June 1


I'll be watching it, but with guests joining me so live-commenting here would be rather rude. But I'll happily chime in tomorrow!
posted by misskaz at 12:32 PM on June 1


I was hoping it would be available for downloading before I had to catch my flight, but nope (insert Dean Ambrose Nope gif). The flight is delayed, so I checked the results, and I'm kind of feeling a 'what is this happy horseshit' sort of feeling about Cena/Wyatt, as well as Seamus/Cesaro. Can anyone tell me if it'd be worth watching after knowing the results?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:08 AM on June 2


The matches were actually way better than I expected them to be. Sure I'm not pleased about the Cena/Wyatt match results but the actual match was super entertaining.

I was only half watching because of hockey but I kinda want to re-watch if it shows up on the Network soon so I can pay more attention this time.
posted by misskaz at 7:07 AM on June 2


Without spoiling, it's worth watching. However, both Cena-Wyatt and Shield-Evolution were just like the card (and in fact like the entire WWE right now): slow in the middle, solid end, sends you home mostly happy without anything really amazeballs in it.

misskaz: The PPVs are on the Network immediately since WM. Raw and Smackdown are 30 days delayed, but everything else is live and persistent.
posted by Etrigan at 9:16 AM on June 2


GOD DAMMIT WE NEED WWE ON FANFARE BECAUSE OMG LAST NIGHT. O.M.G.
posted by misskaz at 5:33 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Is there a word for something that's totally unexpected but is simultaneously totally expected? Because that.
posted by Etrigan at 6:00 AM on June 3


I suspect the number of Mefites interested in discussing WWE on FanFare would be pretty small, but right now I'm mostly reading /r/squaredcircle on Reddit, which is somewhere halfway between mediocre at its best and pit-of-hell at its worst (if I have to read one more time why "it's totally okay" to devote entire threads to how fuckable Lana is or is not, I might have an aneurysm).
posted by uncleozzy at 7:46 AM on June 3


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