Sale of XFL to group that includes actor Dwayne Johnson gets approval

The sale of the XFL to a group that includes actor Dwayne Johnson was approved Friday morning in a Delaware bankruptcy court.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Silverstein allowed the transaction after the XFL resolved a dispute over the $15 million sale price with the court's unsecured creditors' committee. Johnson, along with business partners Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners, will officially assume control of the league from former owner Vince McMahon later this month.

The sale also includes nearly $9 million in payment of cure amounts.

The XFL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 13, less than a month after canceling the 2020 season at its midpoint because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 30 individuals or groups indicated initial interest in the sale, but Johnson, Garcia and RedBird submitted the only qualified bid. The XFL canceled a planned auction scheduled for Monday and awarded them the league. President and chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack hailed the sale to former associates of McMahon as a "Hollywood ending" to the process.

The league had marketed itself as a made-for-TV product that could transition to a bubble concept during the pandemic, and Garcia said this week that the new owners are "planning" for a 2021 launch.

"We're doing all the steps that need to happen for the execution of that," she said. "But we're also being mindful to what has actually been successful. It has been really interesting to see that [in sports], when you create a bubble, your players are safe. When you don't, it's chaos. We are a league, because of the number of teams we have, that actually can create a bubble environment. Those discussions are active."

Garcia will have an executive position with the XFL and said that both she and Johnson will have a hands-on approach to running the league. Asked about hiring other executive-level leaders, she said: "We've been in close discussion with the current XFL management team."

"There are a lot of excellent people in that team," Garcia said. "While it's not 100 percent just turning the lights on, there is still a tremendous amount of infrastructure and relationships that you can actually call people back, pull people back. We saw the work that they were doing for this year, and there was some excellent, excellent work. There is a team there."

McMahon fired XFL commissioner Oliver Luck on April 9, and Luck responded by suing McMahon for wrongful termination and is seeking $23.8 million. The lawsuit was on hold while awaiting the results of the bankruptcy process.

The XFL has twice shuttered after one season, first in 2001 and again earlier this year as a result of the pandemic, and there hasn't been a successful alternative professional football league since the AFL forced a merger with the NFL in 1970. McMahon had been a determined aspirant nevertheless, investing $200 million in the league's second incarnation, one that promised to "reimagine" the game. But the eight teams suspended play after five weeks. McMahon considered bidding on the XFL himself early in the bankruptcy process but ultimately decided against it.

The league averaged 1.9 million television viewers per game and generated nearly $20 million in gross revenues in 2020, according to court filings. It had projected $46 million in gross revenues for the 10-game season, each data point exceeding internal expectations, according to sources.