Do you smell what The Rock is tailgating? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of three parties who have purchased the recently bankrupt XFL.
Johnson has partnered with his longtime business partner, Danny Garcia, and Redbird Capital to purchase the failed league out of bankruptcy for $15 million. While the deal is not 100% final yet, Johnson and Garcia have said that they are planning on the future of the XFL.
Garcia, who will be the first female owner of a major sports league, will take on an executive role within the XFL 3.0.
“We’re planning for it… We’re doing all the steps that need to happen for the execution of that. But we’re also being mindful to what has actually been successful. It has been really interesting to see that [in sports], when you create a bubble, your players are safe. When you don’t, it’s chaos. We are a league, because of the number of teams we have, that actually can create a bubble environment. Those discussions are active.”
When asked about who would be running the league, Garcia mentioned that the ownership was in talks with the current XFL management team. One has to wonder if this might mean that Oliver Luck, the former CEO and Commissioner of the XFL, might be returning to ta role in the revamped league. No decisions have been made on who will be running the league.
Currently, one of the only members of the XFL team from the Alpha Entertainment executive team is the XFL President Jeffrey Pollack. Most other XFL employees were laid off on April 10.
Vince McMahon, the founder and now former owner of the XFL, considered purchasing the league out of bankruptcy but eventually decided against it. It should be important to know that McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment pledged $500 million to run the league over 3 years. The Johnson/Garcia/RedBird Capital group has not made a public commitment for an investment in the XFL.
The XFL currently has TV deals with Fox Sports and ESPN. Many of the stadiums that the XFL played in still have lease agreements with the league. The bankruptcy sale’s proceeds would go to pay off the debts to stadiums accrued through Alpha Entertainment.
“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.”
Pollack released a statement calling the Johnson purchase “a Hollywood ending” and called the new owners “a dream team ownership group and the XFL is in the best possible hands going forward.”
An interesting note, Johnson’s HBO show Ballers had a very similar story arch in the final season. The difference is that Johnson’s character attempted to purchase an NFL team and in real life, Johnson purchased an entire league.
The XFL 2.0 averaged 1.9 million viewers. According to ESPN, the league generated $20 million in gross revenue and projected $46 million for their first season. Their week to week attendance rose and social media engagement was steady.