So, the XFL might still have a pulse after all. As I’ve previously written, it has been reported that the twice-failed league, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after being forced to shutter its doors halfway through its inaugural season due to the pandemic, is actively looking for a buyer.
There are those who believe that that buyer will be Vince McMahon, the mastermind behind the league in the first place—twice. This comes from Dan Kaplan of The Athletic, who suggests that the bankruptcy may have been “just a cutthroat finance ploy by McMahon to ride out the pandemic and resultant economic turmoil without paying the costs of operating the league”.
He sent an e-mail to the league asking if filing for Chapter 11 protection was done with an effort in mind to restart the league—remember, when they closed, they said they would be returning in 2021—and a spokesman responded that “the response to this filing will speak for itself”.
He also reports that the league’s president, Jeffrey Pollack, has been in contact with venues in St. Louis and Seattle, the cities that housed the XFL’s two most popular franchises, about reinstating lease agreements. Both teams consistently drew strong ticket sales and ratings and were the top draws.
If McMahon purchases the XFL and resurrects it, however, it would essentially have to be a second reincarnation, or at least some Frankensteining would have to be done. He necessarily burned a lot of bridges through the bankruptcy process, including arguably one of his greatest and certainly most high-profile assets, that being Oliver Luck as the commissioner. Luck is currently suing.
Kaplan reports that Alpha Entertainment, which is McMahon’s company, wants to pay $3.5 million in season-ticket refunds, seen as a goodwill gesture and an indication that there is still the intention to bring the league back.
“The only reason to pay season ticket holders for games they didn’t get would be to ensure goodwill to McMahon for if and when he returns with the XFL”, Kaplan writes. “The season ticket holders are unsecured creditors, so the chances they get paid in an orderly liquidation would be remote”.
It’s important to remember how much of a passion project this was for McMahon. And the first half of the XFL’s season couldn’t be considered anything other than a success. Ratings, ticket sales, and reviews of the product were all about as strong as could have been expected.
Then the coronavirus happened, something that it goes without saying he couldn’t have possibly foreseen when he decided to resurrect the league. I do believe he would love nothing more than to make this league a success, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up with it back in his hands, ready to restart yet again, whenever it is safe to do so and the enterprise has been rebuilt.