WWE Reduces Executive Pay, Furloughs Staff Amid Virus Crisis

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WWE chairman Vince McMahon

The company resumed its live wrestling matches this week, televised on USA and Fox.

The WWE says that it is taking significant steps to reduce costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the company resumed its live wrestling matches this week on USA and Fox, like most media companies it is expecting the pandemic to impact its financial outlook.

In a statement Wednesday, the company said that it would furlough many employees, and that executives and board members would see compensation reduced.

“The decision to furlough versus permanently reduce headcount reflects the fact that the Company currently believes the furlough will be temporary in nature,” the WWE’s statement said.

The WWE will also save money by cutting talent expenses (i.e., some of the wrestlers that appear on its programming), and by canceling third-party staffing and consulting arrangements. It will also defer spending on its new headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, for at least six months.

The cost reductions will save the company $4 million per month, with a cash flow improvement of $140 million. The company says it has $500 million in cash and debt capacity to help it weather the storm.

The WWE is, for the time being, the only live sporting event being televised in the U.S., with matches originating from the company’s training facility in Orlando, Florida. By continuing to produce live shows, it can keep revenue flowing from its TV rightsholders, even if the decision to hold the matches has been controversial, with the state still under stay-at-home orders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis deemed sporting events “essential” businesses in an executive order.

"People are starved for content. We haven’t had a lot of new content since the beginning of March," DeSantis told reporters Tuesday. “People are chomping at the bit,” he added. “If you think about it, we have never had a period like this in modern American history where you’ve had so little new content, particularly in the sporting realm. I mean, we are watching reruns from like the early 2000s.”

The decision to cut costs comes in the same week that the XFL, in which the WWE owned a stake and which was founded by WWE chairman Vince McMahon, declared bankruptcy.