Actor and pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is part of a group that has purchased the XFL, hours before the league was scheduled to be put up in a bankruptcy auction Monday.
According to Sportico’s Scott Soshnick, Johnson and Dany Garcia — his business partner and ex-wife — are evenly splitting the $15 million price tag with Redbird Capital, an investment firm that last month also purchased the French soccer club Toulouse FC and is a part owner of the YES Network, a cable channel devoted to the New York Yankees.
“This is a Hollywood ending to our sale process and it is an exciting new chapter for the league,” XFL President Jeffrey Pollack said in a statement released Monday by the league. The purchase must still be approved Friday by a bankruptcy court.
After a two-year, $200 million buildup by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the second version of the XFL kicked off in February and initially drew strong television ratings and attendance. But those ratings soon began to fall and, on March 12, the XFL announced it was shutting down its season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic after five weeks of games. McMahon promised a season in 2021, but in April the league announced it was suspending operations permanently and laid off all of its employees.
A couple of days after suspending operations, the XFL’s parent company, Alpha Entertainment, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with filings indicating that the league would be put up for sale. The filings also indicated the league had around $44 million in net losses.
McMahon indicated in May that he would not attempt to repurchase the league. The pro wrestling impresario’s first attempt at getting the XFL off the ground failed in 2001 when viewers and TV executives lost interest because of poor play and wrestling-style theatrics.
Johnson is a former college football player who is now one of Hollywood’s more bankable stars. He said Monday in a statement that his purchase of the XFL “is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things — my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans. With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these calluses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”
As documented by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert in June, the XFL had marketed a 12-week tournament-style season in 2021 to prospective bankruptcy buyers, with games played in one location a la the NBA. Johnson and his partners will own the XFL’s brand name and intellectual property but would need to rehire an entire staff and sign all of its players again, raising doubt about whether that can be accomplished in time to hold a season in the spring of 2021.