WWE shares hit 52-week high after Vince McMahon scandal

Vince McMahon attends a press conference to announce that WWE Wrestlemania 29 will be taking place at the 2013 MetLife Stadium at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images

world wrestling challenges broader market trends this year.

The company’s shares are up more than 50% in 2022, hitting a 52-week high on Monday, and are trading at levels it hasn’t seen since the summer of 2019. By comparison, the S&P 500 is down more than 20% this year.

The strong performance of the shares this year occurred. WWE’s wrestling business has come back to life after months of Covid restrictions, and the company has increasingly been in talks to sell. Shares continued to rise after longtime leader and largest shareholder of the company, Vince McMahon, left the company in the summer at the height of the scandal.

The company’s shares were virtually unchanged on Monday after hitting $76.90. WWE has a market capitalization of over $5.6 billion.

Industry insiders believe that WWE could be the target of an acquisition. The deal could be finalized before the company’s next U.S. TV rights renewal, which is likely to be announced in mid-2023. WWE’s current U.S. streaming deal with NBCUniversal’s Peacock will expire in 2026.

WWE also had to deal with McMahon’s controversy. He retired in July after it was revealed he had paid nearly $20 million in previously unrecorded expenses.

Of those payments, nearly $15 million went to settling four women’s sexual harassment allegations against McMahon over the past 16 years, and $5 million went to the Donald Trump Foundation from donations made in 2007 and 2009.

WWE has hinted that silence payments to alleged victims, already subject to ongoing independent scrutiny by the company’s board of directors, are being investigated by other organizations.

However, WWE has remained in the family. Stephanie McMahon, McMahon’s daughter, took over as chairman and co-CEO along with Nick Hahn, who is also the company’s president. Stephanie’s husband and longtime wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque took over as the company’s chief creative officer, a role McMahon Sr. held until his retirement.

Vince McMahon, 77, remains the company’s largest shareholder, holding about 32% of the shares.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

– Chris Hayes of CNBC contributed to this report.

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