Turner Sells Wrestling Rival to WWF

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

The purchase "creates a tag team partnership with the WorldWrestling Federation brand that is expected to propel the sportsentertainment genre to new heights," Stamford, Conn.-based WWFsaid in a statement today.

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

Turner had been shopping the troubled WCW, which lost anestimated $80 million in 2000, since last summer. A deal withFusient Media Ventures, a New York media investment company, fellthrough after Turner decided to stop airing pro wrestling on itsnetworks.

Neither company would discuss terms of the deal, although peoplefamiliar with the WCW's business said the prime asset WWF isacquiring 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," Turnerspokesman Jim Weiss said. The WCW had planned to stop productionafter 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, saidthat new WCW programming will air on The National Network in thenear future.

The WWF also assumes WCW's multimillion dollar contracts withperformers including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes andGoldberg.

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

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, the two companies battled forratings and popular success as fans often favored one beforereturning to watch the other. But in the late 1990s, as the WCW'sperformers aged and its talent-development efforts lagged, the WWFbegan to regularly trounce Turner.

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

He assumed control of Turner when AOL Time Warner merged thecompany's channels — TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, the CartoonNetwork and all of the CNN networks — into the WB network. Kellnerhelped establish the WB in 1993.

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