2020 has been a wild ride, to say the least. The XFL left as fast as it came, ending just halfway through the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, a lot has happened. The league filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laid off most of its staff, including the firing of CEO and Commissioner Oliver Luck. As the bankrupt XFL looks for a buyer, the buyer could be another interesting twist in this whole saga.
According to Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com, XFL creditors “seem to believe” McMahon is positioning to buy the league out of bankruptcy. Separately, XFL president Jeffrey Pollack has contacted stadiums in Seattle and St. Louis about reinstating the league’s lease agreements.
From last night ICYMI: a startling, possible development in the XFL saga. Was the bankruptcy just a cost saving, stalling tactic by Vince McMahon? https://t.co/HJvuhgj7D1
— Daniel Kaplan (@KaplanSportsBiz) May 20, 2020
The XFL declined comment to Kaplan regarding the potential strategy that would, if effective, allow McMahon to escape debt at a time of devastated revenue and re-emerge on the other side of the pandemic with a clean slate.
The clues as to the creditors’ beliefs come from their objection to a proposal in bankruptcy to pay $3.5 million in season-ticket refunds. The committee of creditors wrote that the payment “is being sought to further the efforts of the debtor’s controlling equity holder/secured lender, Vincent McMahon . . . to acquire the debtor at a fire-sale price.”
The ticket refunds would be aimed at bolstering relations with customers, in anticipation of a future business arrangement.
Adding to the mystery, it’s also being reported that XFL president Jeffrey Pollack has reached out to St. Louis and Seattle about reinstating the league’s lease agreements.
Are the @XFLBattleHawks about to fly again?
The Athletic's @KaplanSportsBiz says the XFL has reached out to St. Louis and Seattle about restarting the league's lease agreements.
Here's what we know: https://t.co/iHalats1T0@XFL #XFLBattlehawks #KaKaw pic.twitter.com/iVFFFdENKE
— KMOXSports (@KMOXSports) May 20, 2020
If this is McMahon’s plan, and it succeeds, he’d have to rebuild the league from the ground up once again. Including, re-hiring coaches and players and others necessary to running the league. Anyone who previously worked for the league and was stiffed in any way may not be inclined to return. Most notably, CEO and Commissioner Oliver Luck who has recently sued McMahon for wrongful termination.
Ultimately, fans won’t care one way or the other. In St. Louis and Seattle, the league thrived. If/when it resurfaces, the XFL could move franchises in cities where the league struggled to places like San Diego and Oakland, from which NFL teams recently have moved. The XFL also could try to identify another city or two (or more) like Seattle, which has an NFL team (and other pro sports) but which still flocked to the XFL games.
If McMahon is indeed trying to rebuy his own league and resurrect it for a second time, there’s a path to profitability given the impressive ratings performance on TV, the pent-up thirst for live sports, and the potential post-pandemic explosion of legalized wagering as states try to repair busted budgets.
It’s hard to say one way or another if this is what is in play or if it’ll work. Regardless, it’s definitely interesting to think about.