Longtime WWE frontman Vince McMahon has stepped down as CEO and chairman, leaving behind a void in television’s most electrifying circus.
But one analyst said the leadership change appears to be coming along smoothly.
“I don’t think it’s going to slow the company down at all,” Brandon Ross, media and technology analyst at LightShed Partners, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “I think the company has had a succession plan in place for a long time. They have a management team that they have a lot of confidence in, and frankly, so do we.”
The modern World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) is the culmination of nearly 70 years of continuous expansion and absorption of smaller, regional wrestling franchises led by McMahon and his father, Jess McMahon.
However, WWE’s image took a hit after reports that the SEC and federal prosecutors were investigating the entertainment company over hush money payments and sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Vince McMahon that led to his early retirement.
WWE stock rose more than 5% in the month after McMahon announced his resignation on July 22.
New leadership for WWE
McMahon’s daughter Stephanie McMahon now serves as acting co-CEO alongside former chief revenue officer Nick Khan.
“I think in terms of their relationships with their licensing partners and sponsors, once Vince was taken out of the equation, the pressure actually took off,” Ross said, later adding that “the co-CEO thing is a little unusual. It’s something WWE has done in the past with co-chairmen.”
The structure will allow each executive to play to their strong suits, like a tag-team duo, Ross added.
“What you’ll see is that Stephanie will be responsible for everything that has to do with the branding and image of the company and a lot of things on the business side,” he said. “While Nick’s main role will be revenue. And an integral part of the revenue is cutting deals with third parties, whether it’s licensing deals for RAW or SmackDown or their pay-per-view events which, in the United States, is largely NBC.”
Stephanie McMahon is the company’s second female CEO, following in the footsteps of her mother Linda McMahon, who was appointed chairman in 1993 and served as CEO from 1997 to 2009.
The CEO’s husband and former WWE star Paul “Triple H” Levesque has also been given creative responsibilities as executive vice president by his father-in-law.
“I don’t think we’re going back to the Attitude Era, but clearly the new head of creative… ‘Triple H’ is from an era where that resonated,” Ross said of the fan excitement.
Members of the WWE production crew reported feeling a “massive night and day change” in the atmosphere in the company’s workplace following Vince McMahon’s departure. McMahon was accused of thwarting unionization efforts by wrestlers during his tenure with WWE.
“There is no shortage of potential buyers”
The new management is questioning how important a role the company’s public-facing leaders have in its future.
The family business has evolved with each decade, expanding from simple broadcasting to live events, video games and film production. With McMahon’s retirement, many investors questioned whether the business would be sold.
“There’s clearly no shortage of potential buyers for this asset as media companies and platforms look for proprietary content, especially live content,” said Ross. “Do we think it’s true that this business is going to be sold? Probably not in the near future. We believe that Stephanie and Paul and Nick really want to run this business.”
“It’s important, especially for Stephanie, to carry on her father’s legacy and perhaps leave her own mark on the business,” Ross continued. “So we don’t think it will sell, but what we do think is that there are operational improvements that can come out of it.”
Ross noted that WWE may look to elevate his mid-card talent, which has garnered excitement from fans.
“The fans were clamoring to go back to more technical wrestling — a little more blood,” Ross said. “So I think you’re going to move a little bit more in that direction. There’s going to be other changes.”
“Generally, if fans are excited, in the media industry – it’s all about eyeballs – that means investors should be excited too,” he added.
Luke is a producer for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @theLukeCM.
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