Turner Sells Wrestling Rival to WWF

A T L A N T A, March 23, 2001 -- Turner Broadcasting System Inc. is selling its ailing World Championship Wrestling division to the World Wrestling Federation, ending an intense rivalry that has inflamed professional wrestling fans for more than 20 years.

The purchase "creates a tag team partnership with the World Wrestling Federation brand that is expected to propel the sports entertainment genre to new heights," Stamford, Conn.-based WWF said in a statement today.

"This acquisition is the perfect creative and business catalyst for our company," said Linda McMahon, chief executive of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., whose Monday night show is the top-rated program on cable.

Turner had been shopping the troubled WCW, which lost an estimated $80 million in 2000, since last summer. A deal with Fusient Media Ventures, a New York media investment company, fell through after Turner decided to stop airing pro wrestling on its networks.

Neither company would discuss terms of the deal, although people familiar with the WCW's business said the prime asset WWF is acquiring is an extensive film library dating to the 1970s, merchandise and some production and exercise equipment.

"We think the WCW has found its proper home now," Turner spokesman Jim Weiss said. The WCW had planned to stop production after Monday night's event in Panama City Beach, Fla.

WWF Paychecks for Hulk Hogan

WWF, which also owns the XFL in a partnership with NBC, said that new WCW programming will air on The National Network in the near future.

The WWF also assumes WCW's multimillion dollar contracts with performers including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Goldberg.

They could join WWF stars such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Chyna, a Playboy centerfold and best-selling author.

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, the two companies battled for ratings and popular success as fans often favored one before returning to watch the other. But in the late 1990s, as the WCW's performers aged and its talent-development efforts lagged, the WWF began to regularly trounce Turner.

The decision to scrap pro wrestling marked the end of a 30-year era for TBS. It was one of the first major programming decisions made by Jamie Kellner, Turner's new chief executive.

He assumed control of Turner when AOL Time Warner merged the company's channels — TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, the Cartoon Network and all of the CNN networks — into the WB network. Kellner helped establish the WB in 1993.