XFL Files for Bankruptcy, Up for Sale

XFL coach Bob Stoops - Getty - H 2020
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Just three days after suspending all operations, the XFL has filed for bankruptcy and will go up for sale.

The spring football league, owned by WWE head Vince McMahon, on Monday filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware. The move comes after the league on Friday shut down operations and laid off nearly all of its employees.

In the filing, the XFL lists between $10 million and $50 million in liabilities and the same in assets. The league owes more than $14 million to its 25 largest unsecured creditors — including seven of the league's eight head coaches. 

A league source told The Hollywood Reporter that the XFL wants to maximize the value of its assets in order to pay creditors, and has begun the process of seeking a buyer.

"The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football. Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis," the league said in a statement. "Accordingly, we have filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football."

The league suspended play in mid-March, halfway through its inaugural season. The scrapping of the final five games of the regular season and a four-team playoff due to the novel coronavirus pandemic cost the league millions of dollars in revenue.

League employees were paid through the end of the regular season, plus any accrued vacation days. The XFL is also in the process of refunding the balance of ticket purchases.

McMahon controls all the Class A shares in the XFL, while World Wrestling Entertainment has 23.5 percent of Class B shares, per the bankruptcy filing (see the full document here). The XFL owes money to stadium operators in St. Louis; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Tampa, Florida; Houston; and Washington, D.C., along with substantial sums to all but one of its coaches.

Dallas Renegades coach Bob Stoops is owed more than $1 million, according to the filing. Tampa Bay Vipers head coach Marc Trestman is owed nearly $778,000 on his contract, while fellow coaches Jonathan Hayes (St. Louis BattleHawks), Winston Moss (Los Angeles Wildcats), Kevin Gilbride (New York Guardians), June Jones (Houston Roughnecks) and Jim Zorn (Seattle Dragons) are each owed more than $500,000. D.C. Defenders coach Pep Hamilton is not listed among the 25 largest unsecured creditors. 

The 2020 version of the XFL was the second attempt by McMahon to start a spring football league. The first, in 2001, played a single season before folding due to plummeting TV ratings and poor quality of play after a strong start.

The new version scrapped some of its predecessor's pro wrestling-style attitude in favor of some innovative rule changes (including ones related to kickoffs and point-after-touchdown attempts) and a better on-field product. The league had TV partnerships with Fox Sports and ESPN/ABC and was averaging a little above 18,000 fans per game in attendance.

TV ratings got off to a decent start, with the four games on opening weekend averaging about 3.1 million viewers. The numbers declined each week after that, with the final set of games on March 7 and 8 averaging 1.16 million on ABC, Fox, ESPN and FS1.

The XFL is the second spring football league in as many years to fold partway through its inaugural season. In 2019, the Alliance of American Football shut down after eight weeks, owing primarily to financial difficulties.