All Elite Wrestling and Ring of Honor Wrestling president Tony Khan is open to potentially owning and managing a third wrestling promotion.
With talks continuing over the future of World Wrestling Entertainment, there has been the potential for a lucrative sale. At the same time, many rumors have emerged about the potential buyer.
Early on, there were rumors that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia was going to purchase WWE for an undetermined sum. However, those rumors were easily dispelled by more reliable sources. Even if that was possible, the sale of a publicly-traded sports entertainment juggernaut could not simply be closed in a matter of days, when it requires majority support from the shareholders.
That takes months to earn that approval, despite Vince McMahon holding a large majority of stock structured back in 1999 to 80% voting power.
Who isn’t in the bidding for WWE?
While there are several potential suitors to purchase WWE, one of them, which happens to be a current broadcast partner, will not be submitting a bid for ownership.
Comcast, the owner of television networks NBC, CNBC, and the USA Network, has had a long-standing relationship with WWE. USA was the original home of the promotion’s flagship program Monday Night RAW. RAW‘s initial run on the USA Network was from January 11, 1993 until September 18, 2000, when they moved over to TNN (now the Paramount Network). The program would return to the USA Network on October 3, 2005 after five years on TNN. USA has been RAW‘s broadcast home since then.
NXT, the program for the promotion’s developmental talent, also broadcasts its weekly program on the USA Network every Tuesday night.
In January 2021, Comcast secured an exclusive distribution rights deal to fold in the U.S. portion of the WWE Network as a part of its Peacock streaming platform.
However, on a February 3 CNBC interview with WWE CEO Nick Khan, it seemed like Comcast was potentially in the race to bid for WWE. During Khan’s interview on Squawk on the Street, Khan asked is Comcast could make an easy deal for WWE.
Show co-anchor David Faber had apparently heard something from his producers that brings doubt to that potential deal happening.
“I’m actually hearing ‘probably not’, I’m sorry to say at this point,” Faber said before mentioning a potential buyer in Endeavor, the current owner of the Miss Universe Organization, IMG, Learfield, IMG Academy, the UFC, and Professional Bull Riders. Endeavor also owns nine Minor League Baseball teams as of December 2021.
The potential of Tony Khan purchasing WWE isn’t impossible
The likeliness of Tony Khan buying WWE may seem slim, but it isn’t necessarily impossible, as the highest bidder gets all the spoils.
The buyer could potentially be the Saudi prince himself, Disney, Netflix, or even Amazon. But since that CNBC interview, there has been one more potential bidder that was even referenced by CNBC analysts: the president of the wrestling promotion that both McMahon and Nick Khan have claimed isn’t their competition.
Tony Khan and his father Shahid Khan are self-made men. They started businesses while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, some of which are still in operation today and bringing in billions. Their combined wealth in the business world has helped them secure majority ownership in the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the Premier League’s Fulham FC. They each have their own additional business ventures that they’ve created since purchasing those teams.
In 2019, with guidance from Matt and Nick Jackson, Kenny Omega, and Cody Rhodes, the Khans established All Elite Wrestling. After some time, AEW was able to secure a television deal for their flagship program Dynamite on the original network home of WCW, TNT, now owned by Warner Bros. Discovery. The Wednesday flagship program would later go to sister network TBS, while its secondary show Rampage aired on TNT Friday nights.
In May 2022, Khan secured the ownership of Ring of Honor Wrestling from Sinclair Broadcast Group for an undetermined sum. The first PPV of the Tony Khan era was Death Before Dishonor.
The reasoning for Tony Khan’s interest
Khan has stated that he has an interest in the involvement of WWE’s sale to new ownership. WWE CEO Nick Khan stated earlier this month, the estimated timeframe for a sale going through and being finalized would be around “three months.”
Should Tony Khan buy WWE, he would have an even larger roster of talent to deal with. Between AEW, ROH, and WWE, he would actively be dealing with around 300 wrestlers. That’s not including front office and corporate staff he would need to engage with on a regular basis. The front office and corporate staff for AEW and ROH have been interchangeable, but the massive staff within WWE should likely complicate operations a bit.
In an interview on Bex & Buster, Khan was asked about how he’d handle rosters if he had a third wrestling company.
“If I owned another wrestling company besides the two I already own, it would be very challenging,” Khan said. “I think we would want to maintain separate rosters just like I’ve tried to keep AEW and Ring of Honor to where there is a crossover between the companies, but both have a strong pay-per-view business. AEW has great television.”
“Certainly,” Khan adds. “If there were opportunities that arouse in terms of acquisitions, then I would certainly be interested in (them).”
Tony Khan’s ownership structure is similar to Japanese company Bushiroad, owner of New Japan Pro-Wrestling and STARDOM. Meanwhile, the only other major organization that owns more separate wrestling promotions is CyberFight. CyberFight is the parent company of DDT Pro-Wrestling, Ganbare Pro-Wrestling, Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Upcoming news relating to ROH
Khan also noted that more information will come soon relating to upcoming television tapings for Ring of Honor’s television program, which will air in the interim on the Honor Club streaming service.
Preliminary reports from Fightful have determined that ROH TV tapings will be in Orlando, Fla. during the final weekend of February, which would be February 25-26.