Trailer park to triumph: Vince McMahon’s overt wealth exposed by WWE share sale
Saturday - 15/12/2018 10:47
WWE godfather Vince MacMahon’s enormous personal fortune has been revealed after a $32 million payday barely landed on his radar.
In the world that billionaire WWE godfather Vince McMahon struts in you can write off a $50 million disaster as nothing more than a learning experience.
Only in the world of billionaire Americans.
The 73-year-old wrestling icon has sold his public image as an average bloke from the rough side of the tracks. However, his recent WWE share offering has exposed how very different his world is to the blue-collar fans that form the core of his empire’s supporters.
Having grown up with nothing, raised in a trailer park in North Carolina, McMahon has built an absurd personal fortune of $US2.9 billion.
GROWING UP ‘DIRT POOR’
McMahon has previously revealed he only met his biological father, Vince Sr, when he was 12-years-old after his parents split-up before his first birthday.
He says he endured abusive step-dads throughout his childhood — forcing him to eventually leave home as a 14-year-old to try and move in with his biological father.
His humble upbringings also instilled in him the freakish resilience and work ethic that saw him manage the WWE as chairman and chief executive while simultaneously wrestling well into his sixties.
“I grew up dirt poor,” he told Forbes.
“When you’re in that class, a lower economic class, everyone is, quote, ‘above you’. And there were a number of individuals who thought they were above me because of their economic situation.
“It always bugged me that people would think they were better than me. I developed a philosophy that no one’s better than me, and at the same time I’m no better than anyone else. Even though I am one, I don’t associate with rich people, generally speaking. I don’t belong to country clubs.
“I drive a nice car and what have you, but I think one of the keys to WWE’s success, quite frankly, is that I remain who I am.”
FROM TRAILER PARK TO BILLIONAIRES CLUB
McMahon’s reconnection with his father proved to be the key to his success.
In 1972, an eager McMahon started working as a promoter for his father’s small-time east-coast wrestling organisation.
He fell in love with the business almost immediately. It fell in love with him too.
Ten years later McMahon Sr sold his regional wrestling company to his son for nothing more than crumbs. Seventeen years later, McMahon Jr was a billionaire.
“I knew my dad wouldn’t have really sold me the business had he known what I was going to do,” McMahon told TV show Headliners & Legends With Matt Lauer in 2001.
“The vision of an international point of view of our business was nothing new. I wanted to do that from day one. My dad thought I was nuts, and he was right really, but I didn’t know I was nuts. And then we just went about doing it.”
Doing it almost got him killed. McMahon went where no other American wrestling promoter was prepared to go. He stepped on the toes of rival wrestling promotions from nearby territories and started competing with them head to head.
It was breaking the golden rule of American wrestling that had kept the peace for so many years before McMahon Jr’s arrival.
“So one day (former WWE announcer) Jim (Ross) was sitting on the throne in the men’s room when a few of the elder guys came in, and they’re saying, ‘How are we going to stop this kid?’ Meaning me. They’re plotting to do me in.”
He told New York Magazine in 1998 death threats were a weekly occurrence during the days of his ambitious expansion plans. “I got so tired of hearing threats on my life,” he said.
“I said to one guy, ‘If you wanna blow me away, you’re way far behind; somebody might beat you to it’.”
He only pushed harder to turn his WWF promotion into the only national wrestling organisation in the United States.
THE DAY HE LOST $350 MILLION
After joining the Forbes billionaire club in 1999, McMahon’s wealth took a crushing hit which saw the value of his WWE shares crumble.
He did not return to the status of billionaire until 2014.
But that initial loss of more than $100 million before the turn of the century was nothing compared to the day he had $US350 million wiped out from his piggy bank.
The market slashed 40 per cent off the value of his WWE shares in the space of 12 hours in May, 2016, after the value of a WWE TV deal with NBCUniversal was announced — failing to deliver on expectations the new rights would be worth up to triple the previous TV deal.
He returned to the billionaire list later the same year on the back of substantial growth in the number of WWE Network subscriptions. His wealth has almost tripled in the last 30 months.
THE NEXT STEP: CRACKING FOOTBALL
Last week McMahon sold $32 million worth of WWE company shares — about one per cent of available stock — offering a glimpse of his personal fortune.
He still holds about 45 per cent of total shares, which would be worth $US2.4 billion on last week’s price.
In December 2017, he sold a larger chunk of stock worth more than $US100 million, after announcing his intent to re-launch his greatest business mistake — the XFL.
Launched as a rival to the NFL, the XFL lasted just one season following its inaugural season in 2001. It reportedly lost McMahon more than $US35 million and also cost business partner CBS a further $US35 million.
A man who has turned almost everything he’s touched to gold, the XFL remains his biggest mistake. Now he’s prepared to put up $500 million to re-write that chapter.
McMahon’s XFL arm has already announced plans to host its inaugural season in 2020, featuring eight teams in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Houston, St. Louis, Seattle, Dallas and Tampa Bay.
The XFL will kick off on February 8-9 2020, the weekend immediately following the NFL’s Super Bowl, and have fewer rules and rougher play.
There have been reports players will be forbidden from taking a knee during the national anthem — the same silent protest that divided the NFL following angry criticism from US President Donald Trump.
It is McMahon’s final frontier in business and — with $2.9 billion in his pockets — it would take a brave man to question his ability to get it right.
HOW VINCE MCMAHON IS STILL BIG DADDY MAC
You’d think all of his business interests would leave McMahon little time to keep in shape but at 73-years-old he’s still shredded. He remains as competitive as ever — and as physically undaunted as ever.
At 1.88m and 109kg, he remains the Genetic Jackhammer.
Having pushed his body to the limit in a career stretching 40 years, time is only now catching up with him.
Despite breaking his tailbone when thrown from the ring onto an announcer’s table at the age of 56, he continued wrestling for another six years and still features in cameo appearances today.
As little as three years ago, The Boss was still putting WWE stars back in their place.
In 2015, he famously schooled 160kg beast Mark Henry — The World’s Strongest Man, as promoted by the WWE — during an unscheduled iron-pumping duel.
“Psychologically, I pretty much decimated him on that last giant set,” McMahon said. “I almost felt sorry for him, but he challenged me. That was a fun day for me.”