As noted on Thursday evening, there is a major corporate shake-up going on in WWE as the company announced a "management transition" with WWE Co-Presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson leaving the company. They are also no longer serving on the WWE Board of Directors, after being with the company with more than a decade. You can click here for our original report, with details on who will report to WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon while they search the corporate world for replacements.
We noted before that the timing of the announcement was very interesting as WWE is scheduled to report their fourth quarter and full 2019 earnings report next Thursday. PWInsider notes that this makes it clear that Vince isn't happy with how things were going for the company, and he felt like it was time for a change. There's a very small circle of people who know exactly what went down and it's likely that the full situation and how it did go down won't be known for a long time, due to corporate non-disclosures and severance packages. It's believed that both Wilson and Barrios will receive a seven-figure severance package.
There has been a lot of speculation and some conspiracy theories about why Barrios and Wilson are gone, but word is that the main reason they're out is that they and Vince had completely different visions as to how WWE could generate revenue, new and existing revenue, moving forward.
One employee joked to PWInsider, "It's never going to be Vince who loses that argument."
You can click here to read our original report, which included the statement from Vince where he thanked Wilson and Barrios for their work, and remained optimistic about the future of the company. Word is that an internal announcement released by the company to its employees was even more direct. The announcement reportedly alluded to irreconcilable differences in WWE's strategic priorities. Wilson and Barrios have had one vision, and Vince has had another. Vince being Vince McMahon, his vision will always win in the end.
"I would like to thank George and Michelle for their 10+ years of service and contributions to the organization," Vince said in the press release on Thursday. "I am grateful for all that was accomplished during their tenure, but the Board and I decided a change was necessary as we have different views on how best to achieve our strategic priorities moving forward. We have a deep team of talented, experienced and committed executives across the organization, and the Board and I have great confidence in our collective abilities to create compelling content, engage our global fanbase across platforms, increase revenues, and drive shareholder value."
Most WWE employees, like just about everyone else, are said to be shocked by the departures. If there was something specific that led to the departures, it has been kept extremely quiet and wasn't something being talked about openly within WWE HQ in Stamford, CT. PWInsider speculates that something happened that led to an immediate blowup and departure because the announcement wasn't held for the weekend, when most companies release their negative news with the hope that it's forgotten about by the time the next week rolls around.
One WWE employee, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said all work that they were aware of was pretty much "ground to a halt" when the announcement was made on Thursday as everyone was shocked by the news. Another employee said it was the most shocking day they could recall since the "horrible day in 2007" when WWE fired 10% of its workforce. We noted yesterday that both Barrios and Wilson had been responsible for the development & launch of the WWE Network, and there was a lot of feelings of "what happens now" on Thursday, in regards to projects and strategies underway, including the planned launch of the tiered Network in the first quarter of this year. However, others noted that if the company survived after Linda McMahon left, and after Shane McMahon resigned in 2009, that the WWE "machine" won't stop rolling for anyone's departure.
One rumor going around that has been shot down is that Barrios and Wilson were pushing for a WWE sale to a larger company, such as a FOX or a Disney, which Vince was against. Another rumor going around, that has been shot down, is that the departures had something to do with Wilson and Barrios pushing back against Vince's relaunch of his XFL football league next month. PWInsider added that the reality of the departures is that working for Vince is always an extremely hard job, one that can be almost impossible if he's personally aware of your work and if he's not happy with the results. These aren't the first executives to climb the company ladder only to see their run come to an end when Vince isn't happy. These departures were just shocking because of who Barrios and Wilson were, and what they've done with the company.
It was noted that Barrios and Wilson both had their quirks, but were well-liked within WWE and were thought of as a "calming presence" against the larger-than-life personality of Vince.
Next Thursday's 2019 earnings call with investors could be very interesting due to the shake-up. Barrios and Wilson usually handled the majority of those calls, but there's no word yet on if Triple H and Stephanie McMahon will have a larger role with them this time. They are both usually in the room when the calls are being done.
As noted, WWE stock tanked in after-hours trading yesterday. The stock opened at $45.41 today, down 27% from Thursday's closing price of $62.31. As of this writing, stock is at $48.20 per share, down 22.6%.
Stay tuned for updates on the shake-up. You can read PWInsider's full report by clicking here.