Nick Khan sat down for a one-hour chat with Bill Simmons following one of the most chaotic periods of WWE’s history.
Khan began the interview by noting that “from the inside, it’s not insane to me” regarding moves that included Vince McMahon being reinstalled as executive chairman, the resignation of his daughter Stephanie, two board members resigning, and McMahon making new bylaws providing his additional influence.
Khan was there to put a positive outlook on the company by reiterating that McMahon was only back for the purposes of exploring “strategic alternatives” that could include a sale, merger, purchase, or no sale at all with all options on the table. He said McMahon has not been involved in other areas of the business and that there are no plans for McMahon to appear on television with the caveat that could change within a few months.
Khan noted that McMahon really did step down last July with himself, Paul Levesque, and Stephanie McMahon given the freedom to run the company. Khan met with McMahon once per month during his hiatus, noting that McMahon was thrilled after the first month to have a break, but by December he was ready to return.
This coincided with McMahon’s contact with the board of directors regarding a return when he first issued a letter to the board on December 20th.
Khan said that anyone who believed McMahon was really retiring doesn’t know him but that it was a wise move for McMahon to disappear for a few months and let the dust settle and applauded his return. That is a curious depiction when discussing the head of a company stepping down from a publicly traded company and essentially, stating it was done for public relations purposes with a return to power always expected.
Simmons brought up the praise for the improvement in the company during his absence and asked Khan if McMahon was disappointed the company did well without him, Khan deferred to Simmons and asked what he thought. Simmons asked if McMahon has properly addressed the allegations to the public and Khan explained McMahon doesn’t like doing press, noting the interviews with Bob Costas and Armen Keteyan, and therefore, didn’t speak about the allegations.
The return of former co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson to the board of directors, signals people that are familiar with the company, according to Khan. Simmons added that McMahon clearly wanted allies on the board and brought up the departures of Man Jit Singh and Ignace Lahoud, who Simmons noted voted against his return to the company (he didn’t point out it was a unanimous vote against McMahon’s return, including Nick Khan, who serves on the board).
Khan purposely avoids getting into the family dynamics of the McMahons and could not speak on the relationship between Vince and Stephanie including potential mitigating reasons behind Stephanie’s resignation nor was he aware of the issues between Vince and Shane McMahon last year. Khan praised the executive skills of Stephanie and added how significant the health issue was for Paul Levesque in 2021.
Simmons shared information he had heard about Stephanie meeting with a lot of people during Vince’s hiatus to put a positive face on the company, which Simmons concluded meant Vince was never coming back. Khan seemed impressed that Simmons was aware of that.
Khan is not concerned about further issues coming out on McMahon with Simmons specifically noting Rita Chatterton, who is seeking damages of nearly $12 million over an alleged rape that she stated occurred inside of a limo with McMahon on July 1986.
Simmons and Khan spoke about the success of the HBO documentary on Andre the Giant and McMahon’s involvement in the collaborative effort. Simmons stated that the Netflix series on Vince McMahon has been “less collaborative”.
Simmons asked about AEW and how they have become the most legitimate competitor for WWE in a long time. Khan responded by stating, “I’ve never met the kid, Tony Khan, seems like a nice kid. I don’t know him. I have met his Dad”. Khan attended a luncheon in 2021 with Stephanie McMahon and was seated next to Shahid Khan and came away extremely impressed with him and was complimentary of Tony’s father.
The conversation ended with an assessment of the sports rights landscape and how it pertains to WWE with a potential sale. When ESPN was brought up, Khan said it was possible WWE could land on the network adding that the crossover between the WWE and UFC audience is only 10-11 percent and therefore, WWE could bring a different audience to the ESPN+ streaming service.
Khan expects a “heightened look” at WWE given the lack of major sales he expects in the sports and media world this year. He called last week’s report on an imminent sale to the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia “100 percent fake” and a potential sale will start with the question of what brings the greatest value to the shareholder.
We will discuss this interview in further detail on Rewind-A-Dynamite tonight at 10 p.m. ET.