Okay, investors: Get ready to RRRUMMMBLLLE!
Professional wrestling went Hollywood years ago, and now it's going Wall Street: World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., the corporate home of such beloved bone crushers as Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, hopes to raise up to $172.5 million through an initial public offering of stock.
"It's a collision of two of the biggest pop cultural phenomena of the '90s, stock market mania and wrestlemania!" said Steven Stark, a cultural commentator and author of the book "Glued to the Set."
Imagine the irresistible headlines: "INVESTORS BODY-SLAM WWF SHARES." "WWF AND WCW IN STREET DEATH MATCH."
Will investors scream for the stock the way they shout at ringside? Matt Harris, a California investor who watches IPOs carefully, said he found WWF's offering intriguing because its fans might constitute a built-in base of investors.
"You'll probably get a lot of fans coming into the stock," he explained, simply for the opportunity to look at a poster of Kane or Mark "Sexual Chocolate" Henry and say, "I own you guys."
Commentator Stark questions if pro wrestling fans are investor types who can affect the price of a stock. Still, yesterday's news represents at least a symbolic milestone in the ongoing democratization of the stock market, further choke-holding the notion that investing is the sole province of the buttoned-down.
Wrestling fans are everywhere. Yesterday a directory assistance operator, just before providing the telephone number for the WWF's Stamford, Conn., headquarters, said, "You tell Mr. McMahon I said hello!" She was referring, of course, to the ubiquitous WWF impresario, Vince McMahon.
Unlike the rash of super-hot Internet companies that have peddled their shares on the stock market, the WWF actually makes money. The company doubled its revenue for the year ended April 30 to $251 million, up from $126 million the year before. And its net income rose more than sixfold, from $8.5 million to $56 million, in the same period.
The WWF filing came on a brutal day for the IPO market: Four new stocks, including cyberflorist 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., debuted and were immediately drop-kicked, falling well below their offering prices.
The new WWF shares, which will be offered under the ticker symbol WWFE on the Nasdaq Stock Market, will not be available to the public for at least several weeks. (Presumably, the traditional "tombstone" advertisement announcing the stock placement will be handled by the WWF star known as "The Undertaker.")
McMahon, who took $25 million out of the company, according to the SEC filings, will receive a $1 million-per-year salary under the terms of the offering, with wife Linda McMahon getting $750,000. They will be entitled to 100 percent annual bonuses, depending on performance, according to the S-1 filing with the SEC. The McMahons currently own all of the company's Class A common stock; it was unclear from the filings how many shares they will own after the company goes public.
Underwriters for the stock sale will include Bear, Stearns & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Wit Capital Corp.
The WWF stated that despite Vince McMahon's importance as a creator of the WWF's "soap-opera-like story lines," it did not take out what is known in insurance circles as "key man" coverage on him.
This could prove troubling to investors in light of recent on-screen attacks against McMahon by his own son, Shane, as well as by members of his stable of 110 wrestlers--that is, "performers," according to the filing.