WWE stock hits 52-week high, defying market trends, in aftermath of McMahon scandal

Vince McMahon attends a press conference to announce that WWE Wrestlemania 29 will be held at MetLife Stadium in 2013 at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images

World Wrestling Entertainment is defying broader market trends this year.

The company’s stock is up more than 50% in 2022, hitting a 52-week high Monday, and trading at levels it hasn’t seen since summer 2019. The S&P 500, by comparison, is down more than 20% this year.

The stock’s strong performance this year occurred WWE’s live wrestling-events business came roaring back after months of Covid restrictions and the company increasingly became the subject of sale talks. The stock continued to do well after the company’s longtime leader and biggest shareholder, Vince McMahon, retired from the company over the summer in a cloud of scandal.

Shares of the company were effectively flat Monday after hitting $76.90. WWE’s market capitalization is over $5.6 billion.

Industry insiders believe WWE could be an acquisition target. A deal could come before the company’s next U.S. TV rights renewal — likely to be announced in mid-2023. WWE’s current U.S. streaming deal with NBCUniversal’s Peacock expires in 2026.

WWE has also had to deal with McMahon’s controversies. He retired in July after it was revealed that he had paid nearly $20 million in previously unrecorded expenses.

Of those payments, almost $15 million went to settle sexual misconduct allegations from four women against McMahon over the last 16 years, and $5 million went to Donald Trump’s foundation from donations made in 2007 and 2009.

WWE has hinted that the hush payments to alleged victims, already the subject of an ongoing independent review overseen by the company’s board, are under investigation by other entities.

Still, WWE stayed in the family. Stephanie McMahon, McMahon’s daughter, took over as chairwoman and co-CEO alongside Nick Khan, who also serves as the company’s president. Stephanie’s husband and longtime wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque has taken over as the company’s top creative executive, the role the elder McMahon had before he retired.

Vince McMahon, 77, remains the largest stakeholder in the company, holding about 32% of shares.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

–CNBC’s Chris Hayes contributed to this report.

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