Archive for June 21st, 2009

Donald Trump, WWE, And the SEC

In a Friday piece headlined “GE and WWE in Violation of Securities Law?”, http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/media/ge-wwe-violation-securities-law, Kathryn Glass of Fox News wondered about the storyline “sale” of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw brand to Donald Trump.

Trump’s involvement is a ratings stunt for the USA cable network show Monday Night Raw. (USA is owned by GE. Raw is one of WWE’s three wrestling troupes; the others are Smackdown and ECW.)

The Fox article noted that a USA press release, which did not identify the Trump purchase of Raw as a TV shtick, was distributed via PR Newswire, a business and corporate-relations service. In response, shares of WWE, which is listed at the New York Stock Exchange, fell Tuesday more than seven percent, to $12.18 per share, after opening at $13.13, arguably because some naive investors fell for the ruse.

The Securities and Exchange Commission prohibits the dissemination by publicly traded companies of materially false statements. This subject came up with respect to WWE in another incident two years ago, which is covered in my forthcoming book on the Chris Benoit double murder/suicide. (Tomorrow is the anniversary of the strangulation of Nancy Benoit, the first of the three deaths.) On the day the Benoit family’s bodies were found, WWE was scheduled to air a special edition of Monday Night Raw with a memorial to WWE chairman (and TV bad guy) Vince McMahon, who had been “murdered” by a car bomb. It was one thing for WWE to hype a storyline on its entertainment website, but in this case the corporation also put out a press release through its investors website, a move that Darren Rovell of CNBC questioned.

Yesterday, on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter website, Bryan Alvarez, the publisher of Observer affiliate Figure Four Weekly, wrote of the Fox story about Trump: “Sometimes it’s a bit annoying when wrestling falls under the radar because ‘it’s just wrestling.’ but with something like this, there aren’t more important things to do in the financial world?”

Unfortunately, my friend Bryan gets the tone here precisely wrong. The tipoff is his solipsistic phrase “a bit annoying.”

Yes, the Madoff scandal is more important than a goofball press release. But Alvarez doesn’t cover the financial world. He covers pro wrestling. How wrestling gets regulated, or not, affects a lot of things for wrestling fans and for talent. For example, in recent years the latter have experienced an avoidable and obscenely high volume of early deaths.

I’m not sure exactly what wrestling journalists who want to be taken seriously accomplish when they treat real-world stories so flippantly. For this reader, the only thing they accomplish is a careless signal that they — like wrestling promoters — enjoy having it both ways.

Irv Muchnick

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