WWE’s share price continues to soar to record proportions as the world wide leader in sports and entertainment reached yet another financial milestone this past Wednesday (April 25, 2018) with a share price that peaked at $40.18.
This marked the first time in company history that WWE’s stock price surpassed $40 since the promotion went public on October 19, 1999. As of Friday, WWE’s stock closed at $40.30.
According to CNNMoney, 11 of 12 analysts estimate a high of $45 in their 12-month price forecasts with 14 polled investment analysts rating WWE’s stock as a buy.
Following its initial public offering (IPO) in 1999 as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, WWE was valued at $172.5 million, trading at $30.50 per share.
After issuing stock during the peak of its powers, however, share prices would steadily decline as WWE entered the tail end of the Attitude Era. WWE took a commanding lead over WCW during the Monday Night Wars, an era which signified pro wrestling’s apex. In what was both a blessing and a curse, WWE’s lead would eventually turn into a monopoly as WCW closed its doors on March 26, 2001.
With no competition and the popularity of pro wrestling declining, WWE’s business suffered as its share price declined 58% from its IPO to $12.80 by the final episode of WCW Nitro.
WWE’s stock price bottomed out in 2002, almost three years to the day of its IPO, with an anemic closing price of $6.86 on October 16 during a transitional period within the promotion where a fresh-faced Brock Lesnar assumed the throne as WWE’s next big thing.
But after over a decade of reinvention, calculated financial decisions and properly adjusting to a rapidly changing landscape in both live and streaming programming, WWE’s stock price has embarked on an unprecedented climb.
WWE is currently valued at just over $3 billion.
WWE’s cost-cutting measures include canceling several original programs on the WWE Network, releasing talent and cutting back on pyrotechnics at live events. 2017 represented one of WWE’s most profitable years of this decade as it netted over $32 million in a year where a one-time tax charge of $11.3 million kept it from amassing its highest profit since 2010.
WWE’s new television rights deal is also expected to be its biggest ever. With cable and network television channels now putting a premium on live programming to combat the inevitable rise of streaming services like Netflix, promotions like WWE and UFC stand to become the beneficiaries despite their relative decline in popularity.
Last week, rumors circulated that ESPN and Fox had put in a joint bid for UFC’s television rights that would reportedly pay the market-leading promotion $120 million to $180 million per year. UFC makes $120 million per year in its current deal with Fox.
While it’s tough to imagine WWE getting its reported $400-per-year asking price, it has much more leverage than it did in 2014. Fox has emerged as a serious suitor, and NBCUniversal is now a desperate one with USA Network risking obscurity on cable without WWE in its portfolio.
With no serious bidders outside of NBCUniversal, WWE’s previous disappointing deal resulted in a 50% decline of its stock. In fact, the only thing more underwhelming than WWE’s new deal in 2014 were all the incorrigible and outdated pro wrestling puns in media headlines.
Surely, the media will be singing a different tune in 2018 for what should be a far more impressive television deal than that of four years ago. So allow this wrestling columnist to help the rest of the mainstream media catch up with the times and come up with a more bearable headline when WWE’s new deal is announced—which could happen anywhere from May to September