Rupert Murdoch attended meeting with FOX and WWE for Smackdown deal

 
 

The Hollywood Reporter is carrying a more in-depth look at the negotiations that took place between WWE and FOX and how the deal, which will be finalized soon, came about.

THR says that Stephanie McMahon, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Michelle Wilson, and George Barrios attended a meeting with FOX executives on the 44th floor of 21st Century Fox’s Manhattan headquarters on the morning of May 17. With them were Creative Artists Agency’s Nick Khan and Alan Gold, who were also negotiating the deal on behalf of WWE.

Sitting across them were Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, Fox Sports executives Eric Shanks and Larry Jones and Rupert Murdoch, the 87-year-old owner of 21st Century Fox and News Corp.

May 17 represents the first day following the May 16 “first dibs” deadline that NBCUniversal had with WWE. FOX knew of the deadline and quickly moved in to snatch Smackdown away from NBCU in a deal worth $1.025 billion over five years.

The conference room where the meeting was held had a giant TV screen projecting a shot from WrestleMania 34, with Ronda Rousey lifting Triple H in a fireman’s carry with the Fox Sports and FS1 logos superimposed on it…a move which THR said served as an icebreaker that kicked off a two-and-a-half hour meeting.

Rupert Murdoch apparently told the WWE crew at the meeting that NBCUniversal was “embarrassed by your product” and unlike them, FOX would fully embrace WWE with Smackdown promos airing across sports programming every night of the week, along with a weekly studio show on FS1.

That was enough for WWE to handshake on the deal, with legal teams from both sides now inching closer to a finalized contract that would see Smackdown moving to FOX starting in October 2019. THR also adds that NBCU is paying $265 million per year to retain Raw on USA Network.