A group including actor and former WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has agreed to purchase the XFL for approximately $15 million, according to a news release issued Monday morning.
The XFL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 13 and has been seeking a buyer for the past three months, marketing itself as a made-for-TV product that could transition as early as 2021 to a bubble concept during the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear when Johnson and his investors — who include his business partner and ex-wife, Dany Garcia, along with RedBird Capital Partners — plan to revive the league.
The league has twice shuttered after one season — first in 2001, then earlier this year as a result of the pandemic — and there hasn’t been a long-term alternative football league since the AFL forced a merger with the NFL in 1970. But XFL owner Vince McMahon had been a determined aspirant, investing $200 million in the league’s second incarnation, one that promised to “reimagine” the game. Its eight teams suspended play after five weeks, and the league laid off almost all its workforce April 10.
McMahon considered bidding on the XFL himself early in the bankruptcy process but ultimately decided against it.
In a statement, Johnson, 48, provided a glimpse of the McMahon-like flair he could bring to the league.
“The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things — my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans,” said Johnson, who played football at the University of Miami from 1990 to 1994. “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans and everyone involved for the love of football.”
In a statement, XFL president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack called the pending sale “a Hollywood ending” and said Johnson’s investors are “a dream team ownership group and the XFL is in the best possible hands going forward.”
Cardinale is the managing partner and CEO of RedBird, which manages more than $4 billion in assets. Last week, it purchased a controlling interest in Toulouse Football Club, a French soccer team. In November, it invested $125 million in a new company that secures commercial rights for the NFL.
Organizational plans for the newest version of the XFL are not yet clear. McMahon fired XFL commissioner Oliver Luck on April 9, and Luck responded by suing McMahon for wrongful termination and is seeking $23.8 million. The lawsuit was on hold awaiting the results of bankruptcy.
The league averaged 1.9 million television viewers per game and generated nearly $20 million in gross revenues in 2020, according to court filings. It had projected $46 million in gross revenues for the 10-game season, each data point exceeding internal expectations, according to sources.