Yesterday, WWE® chairman Vince McMahon announced the company would be making some drastic changes due to the impact of COVID-19. According to a vague news release, the company has been evaluating the situation and its options to determine what changes were necessary. They include reducing compensation for the board and company executives; lowering operating expenditures; cutting talent expenses including cutting third party staffing and consulting; and pausing on the build out of the company’s new headquarters for the next six months.
“Given the uncertainty of the situation, the company also identified headcount reductions and made the decision to furlough a portion of its workforce effective immediately. The decision to furlough versus permanently reduce headcount reflects the fact that the Company currently believes the furlough will be temporary in nature,” said WWE in the news release.
The company expects to save about $4 million a month by lowering employee compensation and laying off staff. In addition, the company could see a temporary savings of $140 million by not spending additional funds on the build out of the new headquarters. WWE said it will provide additional guidance on April 23, when it plans to release its first quarter 2020 financials.
In a separate statement, WWE Network identified the talent who would be leaving WWE’s streaming subscription network:
- Kurt Angle, Rusev (Miroslav Barnyashev)
- Drake Maverick (James Curtin)
- Zack Ryder (Matthew Cardona)
- Curt Hawkins (Brian Myers)
- Karl Anderson (Chad Allegra)
- Luke Gallows (Drew Hankinson)
- Heath Slater (Heath Miller)
- Eric Young (Jeremy Fritz)
- Rowan (Joseph Ruud)
- Sarah Logan (Sarah Rowe)
- No Way Jose (Levis Valenzuela)
- Mike Chioda
- Mike Kanellis (Mike Bennett)
- Maria Kanellis, EC3 (Michael Hutter)
- Aiden English (Matthew Rehwoldt)
- Lio Rush (Lionel Green)
- Primo (Edwin Colon)
- Epico (Orlando Colon Nieves).
“We with them all the best in their future endeavors,” said WWE staff.
In addition to letting go of top talent, McMahon is under fire for some questionable business decisions made recently including operating as an “essential business,” putting employees at risk from COVID-19 by airing live shows – Raw, Smackdown and NXT, McMahon filing for bankruptcy for the XFL and advising Trump on the economy, according to Deadspin.
Criticism on Twitter wasn’t any kinder. Here is a sampling of some of the responses to the news. We’ve opted to leave out some of the fouler comments.
After reading the comments on Twitter, I’m not sure there is much left to say. This situation is unfortunate, because WWE has a unique niche audience and what was once a great streaming subscription video product. With a rocky relaunch last year, and an inconsistent talent line-up this year, there is no telling what these changes will do to the streaming service. Aside from that, WWE is losing a significant amount of goodwill, particularly when it has money in the bank, but it is opting to lay staff off. We are eager to hear the April 23 financials and to see what additional details and justification WWE can provide.