Coronavirus pushes WWE to furlough employees, release wrestlers

WWE expects to save $4M per month through cost-cutting measures

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World Wrestling Entertainment said Wednesday it will furlough a portion of its workforce and release a number of wrestlers from its roster as it looks to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The professional wrestling organization said its financial restructuring plan would save about $4 million per month on its balance sheet and improve its cash flow by $140 million. The furloughs were effective immediately and expected to be temporary, though it was unclear how many WWE employees were impacted.

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“Due to COVID-19 and current government-mandated impacts on WWE and the media business generally, the Company went through an extensive evaluation of its operations over the past several weeks,” WWE said in a press release. “This analysis resulted in the implementation of various short-term cost reductions and cash flow improvement actions.”

Aside from the furloughs, WWE said it would temporarily reduce compensation for its executives and board members, cut back on talent-related costs and trim spending on day-to-day operations. The organization will also push back its planned construction of a new headquarters by at least six months.

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Despite coronavirus-related challenges, WWE said it “has substantial financial resources, both available cash and debt capacity” to weather the crisis.

“Management continues to believe the fundamentals of the Company’s business remain strong and that WWE is well positioned to take full advantage of the changing media landscape and increasing value of live sports rights over the longer term,” WWE added.

The slate of released wrestlers includes longtime star Kurt Angle and Curt Hawkins.

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WWE is one of the few sports and entertainment organizations that has continued to operate during the pandemic. The company has aired live broadcasts, including its flagship WrestleMania pay-per-view event, from closed sets in Florida. Fans are barred from attending the events.

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis named WWE an “essential business,” allowing the company to continue live shows without violating social-distancing protocols.

WWE held a small ownership stake in the XFL, a startup football league founded by the company’s CEO, Vince McMahon. XFL filed for bankruptcy earlier this week after the pandemic forced the suspension of its inaugural season.

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