Johnson, an actor and producer who played college football at the University of Miami, teamed up with Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital to buy the league just hours before a planned auction was scheduled to begin.
They paid $15 million, splitting it evenly. Johnson’s business partner, Dany Garcia, who is also his ex-wife, will be an equal stakeholder with him.
According to a court filing, this was the only qualified bid. The transaction is subject to bankruptcy court approval at a hearing this Friday, August 7 and, assuming that closing conditions are satisfied, is expected to close on or shortly after August 21.
RedBird has made a litany of sports-related investments, including some with ties to the National Football League and its players.
The presence of Johnson, meantime, continues pro wrestling’s involvement in the spring football league, which was founded—and funded—by WWE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon.
“I could not imagine a better outcome for the XFL. Dany, Dwayne and Gerry are the best possible ownership group for the exciting journey ahead, said XFL President Jeffrey Pollack, who oversaw the sale process for the league. “Their collective track-record of success in entertainment, sports and media is stellar, and I think our fans, players, coaches, and partners are in for something special.”
The XFL filed for bankruptcy in April after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of its inaugural season, which got off to a promising start in terms of television audience. The league had a broadcast agreement with Fox.
With live sports a reliable vehicle to deliver ratings, there’s a good chance a number of traditional TV networks—and perhaps streaming companies—would seek to add the XFL to their portfolios. Besides the league, networks would likely seek a tie-up with Johnson, who is the executive producer of “The Titan Games,’’ a sports competition reality series on NBC.
The XFL acquisition will allow the group the ability to option live entertainment intellectual property for further expansion across sports, live events and original entertainment programming.
The XFL is the latest sports-related move for Cardinale and RedBird, which recently bought French soccer team Toulouse. In addition, Cardinale—along with Oakland A’s executive Billy Beane—created a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that’ll focus on buying companies in sports, media and data analytics.
The private equity firm is also an investor in the YES Network, the regional sports network that shows New York Yankees games, as well as On Location Experiences, which is partly owned by the NFL, and also OneTeam Partners, a tie-up that includes the unions that represent MLB and NFL players.
Garcia and Johnson are co-founders of Seven Bucks Companies, a multi-platform enterprise pioneering original content for television, film, emerging technologies and digital networks, and have been behind some of the most successful platforms in global entertainment.
In its bankruptcy filing, Alpha Entertainment, the XFL’s parent, listed the league with assets and liabilities in the range of about $10 million to $50 million.
Late Monday, attorneys for the creditors filed an objection in bankruptcy court to the proposed sale. While the creditors signal they “generally support” the transaction, they also expressed concern that the seller hasn’t conducted the necessary valuation for creditors to know if their interests are being protected.
McMahon announced the XFL’s reboot in 2018, and spent two years developing the eight-team league.
The XFL drew more than 3 million viewers in its first week. The audience was about half that number in its fifth and final week before the shutdown.
The original XFL, created in 2001 in partnership with NBC, folded after one season.
PJT Partners was the financial advisor to Johnson and Garcia.
(This story has been updated to show that attorneys for the creditors have filed an objection to the sale.)