Unbelievable interest in the gutted XFL

From a report in The Athletic, twenty different bidders have submitted non-disclosure agreements to begin negotiations to purchase the XFL.

By all reports, the “robust market” has come as a surprise to the firm Houlihan Lokey, the XFL’s global investment bank that is handling the deal. In fact, they expect six additional contenders to join the negotiating process, which they do not expect to complete until September.

To assist in keeping itself viable, it is reported that the XFL has begun discussing extending stadium leases.

“I understand the debtor has modeled for 2021 a made-for-TV, 12-week tournament-style approach to its business, since the XFL is particularly well suited for a crowd-free experience that could thrive in the current environment, given its existing innovations such as in-game audio from players and coaches and live on-screen sports wagering information,” Houlihan managing partner William Hardie said.

Just prior to the XFL filing for bankruptcy in mid-April, the league gutted itself by laying off players coaches and staff in each of the eight XFL cities. A skeleton crew remained on payroll in the XFL head office, however its well-regarded Commissioner Oliver Luck was sacked. Luck, who left the NCAA to accept a $20 million per year role with the league, has now filed a lawsuit against XFL owner Vince McMahon for wrongful termination.

Prior reports suggested McMahon was part of an investment group that was vying to purchase the XFL from bankruptcy. However, McMahon has debunked this rumor in a deposition released this week, where he confirmed he would not be back with the XFL.

Vince McMahon claims he does not plan to buy back the XFL

“I don’t know why that’s out there, making me out to be the bad guy” ~ McMahon

After the XFL was shuttered and then placed into bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been rumored that Vince McMahon was planning to buy back the league from bankruptcy.

Today, as part of the bankruptcy filing, McMahon cleared the air in his deposition.

“I don’t know why that’s out there, making me out to be the bad guy, [that] I’m going to buy the XFL back for pennies on the dollar, basically,” McMahon said in the deposition.

“That helped me move into the direction of, ‘I’m not going to be a bidder, not going to have anything to do with it.’ I do hope that someone will pay a lot of money for it, and I do hope that it will survive.”

McMahon originally launched the XFL in 2001 and rebooted the league in 2019. McMahon owned 80% of the league through his management company Alpha Entertainment and 20% through the WWE.

The brokerage firm Houlihan Lokey has been hired to handle the sale of the league. Letters of intent are due June 12 from interested parties. Final bids are due July 6, subject to approval by the bankruptcy court, in hopes of putting potential new owners in position to get the XFL back on the field.

Is Vince McMahon trying to buy back the bankrupt XFL?

Vince McMahon may be having second thoughts about giving up his XFL dream, as there has been reports he has been making inquiries about re-instating lease agreements in some XFL cities.

According to a recent story in The Athletic, the XFL has reached out to at least the Seattle and St. Louis markets about reinstating lease agreements.

It is possible that McMahon may be trying to purchase the XFL, which he currently owns through Alpha Entertainment and the WWE, from the Delaware bankruptcy court that is working to deal off the league to the highest bidder.

It was also reported that XFL president Jeffrey Pollack is still employed by the league, and that XFL headquarters remain at least partially open.  However, McMahon would have to revive the league without its commissioner Oliver Luck, who has been fired and is the midst of an ugly wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

The XFL did refund all fans who had purchased tickets, which could be seen as a goodwill gesture to fans who may be asked to come back to league once pandemic concerns are alleviated.

If McMahon is indeed interested in reviving the XFL, and succeeds in doing so through a bankruptcy purchase, it may be deemed as one of the most incredible sports business moves in recent history.