Saudi Arabia finally pays WWE for ‘Crown Jewel’ broadcasts

New York Post Finance 1 month ago

World Wrestling Entertainment has agreed to stage two major events in Saudi Arabia every year — just days after a surprise delay of its “Crown Jewel” broadcast last week stoked speculation of a rift with Riyadh.

The expanded, eight-year deal capped a chaotic week in which a prominent wrestling commentator, Hugo Savinovich, claimed that WWE Chief Executive Vince McMahon had abruptly cut Saudi Arabia’s live feed to last week’s “Crown Jewel” event because the oil-rich kingdom had failed to pay the network for its broadcasts.

That, in turn, stoked rumors — published by the Sportskeeda sports app and other outlets — that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman retaliated by detaining a plane set to fly 175 WWE staffers, including numerous high-profile wrestlers, out of the country.

WWE on Friday confirmed that wrestlers like Karl Anderson and Brian Myers, both of whom compete on “Raw,” sat on the tarmac for six hours — but blamed the late take-off on “mechanical issues.”

The plane’s owner, Atlas Air, issued a similar statement, adding that “the aircraft is being repaired and will be inspected and certified before returning to service.”

Wall Street anxiety over the chaos helped send WWE stock down 5 percent in regular trading Monday, continuing a slide that began last Thursday when the company reported disappointing third-quarter results and slashed its profit forecast.

The shares rebounded after the market’s close, however, gaining 6.3 percent in extended training on news that WWE and Saudi Arabia had expanded their partnership for live events.

During an earnings call about the quarter’s results, WWE co-President George Barrios partially blamed the company’s reduced outlook on unexpected delays to the Saudi Arabia deal, noting that WWE and some of its other overseas partners had yet to find “common ground.”

Barrios also mentioned an “outstanding” $60 million receivable originally scheduled to arrive before the third quarter’s end on Sept. 30.

The payment of that bill was made shortly after the end of the quarter, according to a source, paving the way for Monday’s announcement of the beefed-up events agreement.

WWE and the Saudi General Entertainment Authority added that they continue to work toward the completion of a media rights agreement for the Middle East and North Africa.

The controversy overshadowed WWE’s first women’s wrestling match in Saudi Arabia. The Halloween match had WWE’s women wrestlers — who are normally scantily clad — fighting in full body suits covered by large T-shirts, but their heads were uncovered.


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