Just days after laying off most of its employees, the XFL, wrestling empresario Vince MacMahon’s second attempt at a professional football league, has taken a knee, filing for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
The XFL had been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, ending its 10-game inaugural season on March 12 with 5 games to play. Last week (April 10), the league suspended operations and laid off most of its workforce.
This was to be the second attempt at creating a new football league for World Wrestling Entertainment chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. While the earlier version of the XFL crashed and burned after one season in 2001 amid low ratings and a string of bad luck, the latest iteration was supposed to be a more serious, fast-paced, fan-centric and family-friendly football league. In June 2018 McMahon hired former NFL and NCAA executive Oliver Luck as commissioner and CEO of the league, and tapped sports business consultant Jeffrey Pollack as president and chief operating officer.
The XFL was run by Alpha Entertainment, a holding company controlled by McMahon and 23.5% owned by World Wrestling Entertainment. According to the bankruptcy filing, Alpha has assets of between $10 million and $50 million, and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million.
Chapter 11 filings are basically reorganizations, so there is a chance that the league could emerge. According to the documents, McMahon and Drivetrain LLC partner John Brecker have been appointed liquidating agents of Alpha Entertainment, and are likely to seek out financing to attempt to restart the league. That could come from McMahon, who according to the documents has recused himself from financing approval efforts “since he is a potential source of such post-petition financing."
McMahon in the past has financed Alpha Entertainment by selling stock in WWE. Whether he will do that again remains to be seen.
Alpha has more than 1,000 creditors, with the St. Louis Sports Commission at the top of the list of unsecured creditors, owed $1.6 million, as part of its three-year lease of the Commission’s stadium, the Dome at America’s Center, according to the document. The general managers of seven of the eight XFL teams also are owed money, beginning with former Oklahoma University head coach Robert Stoops, the GM and head coach of the XFL Dallas Renegades, owed $1.08 million; Tampa Bay Vipers head coach and GM Marc Trestman, owed $777,777.78; St. Louis BattleHawks GM and head coach Jonathan Hayes, owed $633,333.33; and Los Angeles Wildcats GM and head coach Winston Moss, owed $583,333.33; New York Guardians GM and head coach Kevin Gilbride, owned $583,333.33; Houston Roughnecks GM and head coach June Jones, owed $583,333.33; and Seattle Dragons GM and head coach Jim Zorn, owed $583,333.33, according to documents.