As the bankrupt XFL looks for a buyer, the buyer could be its founder.
Via Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com, XFL creditors “seem to believe” McMahon is positioning to buy the league out of bankruptcy. Separately, XFL president Jeffrey Pollack has contacted stadiums in Seattle and St. Louis about reinstating the league’s lease agreements.
The XFL declined comment to Kaplan regarding the potential strategy that would, if effective, allow McMahon to escape debt at a time of devastated revenue and re-emerge on the other side of the pandemic with a clean slate.
The clues as to the creditors’ beliefs come from their objection to a proposal in bankruptcy to pay $3.5 million in season-ticket refunds. The committee of creditors wrote that the payment “is being sought to further the efforts of the debtor’s controlling equity holder/secured lender, Vincent McMahon . . . to acquire the debtor at a fire-sale price.”
The ticket refunds would be aimed at bolstering relations with customers, in anticipation of a future business arrangement.
If that’s McMahon’s plan, and if it succeeds, he’d have to rebuild the league from the ground up, re-hiring coaches and players and others necessary to running the league. Anyone who previously worked for the league and was stiffed in any way may not be inclined to return (most notably, Oliver Luck won’t be back as the Commissioner), but if folks want to work in football and unless they’ve landed in the NFL, it’s not as if they have many alternatives.
Ultimately, fans won’t care one way or the other. In St. Louis and Seattle, the league thrived. If/when it resurfaces, the XFL could move franchises in cities where the league struggled to places like San Diego and Oakland, from which NFL teams recently have moved. The XFL also could try to identify another city or two (or more) like Seattle, which has an NFL team (and other pro sports) but which still flocked to the XFL games.
If McMahon is indeed trying to rebuy his own league and resurrect it for a second time, there’s a path to profitability given the impressive ratings performance on TV, the pent-up thirst for live sports, and the potential post-pandemic explosion of legalized wagering as states try to repair busted budgets.
Debates regarding the business ethics of the move notwithstanding, this potential Hail Mary play disguised as a Statue of Liberty could be the thing that lays the foundation for the league to survive and perhaps to thrive.