For McMahon, Wrestling Means Millions

When World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Chris Benoit killed himself, his wife and 7-year-old son last weekend, company Chairman Vince McMahon not only had a public relations nightmare on his hands, he also stood to lose millions.

Once news of the incident spread, shares of WWE -- which McMahon founded and runs -- fell sharply, costing McMahon and his family a $20.5 million drop in stock value.

But don't feel too bad. That family's stake in the company is still worth more than $761 million. Analysts familiar with the company said the stock drop might be temporary, and shares of WWE had already started to rebound Thursday.

"It's obviously a tragedy. We don't expect it to have an impact on the long-term value of the WWE franchise," said Alan S. Gould, an analyst with Natexis Bleichroeder.

Michael A. Kelman, senior media analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, agreed that there will be little if any long-term impact.

"This is more headline noise," than anything else, he said. WWE still has a wide range of characters and storylines, he said.

McMahons the Majority Shareholders

Media stocks in general have been down recently, Kelman said, and WWE shares took a hit after the poor performance of the movie "The Condemned," which starred WWE personality and wrestler Steve Austin.

McMahon and his wife Linda have an iron-grip control over their company. There are 71.15 million shares of the company and the couple own 67 percent of them.

Additionally, their shares are of a special class, giving them 10 votes for every one other investors have. This gives them more than 95 percent of the voting power.

McMahon also owns more than 47 million shares of this class B company stock. His wife owns another 567,000 shares.

Stock Fluctuations

Like most other companies, WWE stock has had its ups and downs in recent weeks, and this week's sell-off was a direct result of the Benoit killings.

On Monday, before news of Benoit broke, shares were trading at $16.38. They closed Wednesday at $15.95, down about 2.6 percent.

The stock has since rebounded and is now trading at $16.10 a share. That's a far cry from where the stock was just on June 4, when it closed at $18.04 a share.

The McMahons' share of the company was worth $79.2 million more on June 4 than it was on Monday, before the smaller killing-related drop.

Corporate Planes and Golden Parachutes

The McMahons waived all pay from November 2004 through the end of 2007, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Starting in 2008, they will start collecting a salary again: $850,000 a year for Vincent and $500,000 for Linda.

But just because they didn't collect a paycheck, it doesn't mean they didn't get other corporate perks. For instance, last year WWE spent $44,026 for the couple's personal use of the corporate aircraft. The McMahons are now paying for all airplane use themselves, according to a company filing with the SEC.

The couple is also well insulated against any firings.

If he is involuntarily fired for cause, McMahon would get a $4.34 million payout. His wife would get $3.4 million. The same amount of money would be paid out to their benefices if either executive dies.

If the couple decides to sell the company and the new owners toss them out they stand to gain even more. Under that scenario, WWE would also cover the couple's tax liability from the payout: a total of nearly $10.7 million for the couple.

A Family Affair

The McMahons have also given their children lucrative jobs within the company.

Their son Shane McMahon is an executive office and earned $471,000 in 2006, according to a SEC filing. Daughter Stephanie Levesque also works for WWE and took home $353,000 in 2006. Her husband Paul Levesque is an impendent contractor with the company, earning an undisclosed sum.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...