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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Did Vince McMahon's Fake Death Violate Security Laws?

That is a question asked by Darren Rovell on Sports Biz today, and also one that he asked me in a TV interview that will air on CNBC later today at the following times: 7:50 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1:55 p.m., all Eastern Standard Time Zone. I hope you get a chance to watch. The interview will first air on CNBC's morning business show Squawk Box.

McMahon, as you know, is the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment ("WWE"), and last Monday, WWE claimed that McMahon had been killed when his limo exploded. announced that he was presumed dead since no body was recovered, and also claimed that the FBI was investigating, but it was later learned that the event was merely a promotional stunt, like many events that occur in pro wrestling.

WWE is a publicly-traded company, and while it's stock is only down 1.8 percent since the fake death, Rovell analyzes whether investors (as opposed to fans) of WWE may have been affected by the news, particularly since McMahon is listed in the company's most recent annual report as the most important person in the organization, and thus his death would seemingly be of great consequence. Then again, according to the WWE, not one investor has contacted the company to complain. Still, Rule 10b-5, pursuant to Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, prohibits misleading statements or omissions of material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of any security, and that includes press releases that intentionally or, according to most courts, recklessly mislead investors. Both the SEC and private citizens can enforce the requirements of 10b-5. Establishing a claim against the WWE would be difficult, but it's an interesting idea to consider.

I hope you get the chance to watch the interview.

Update: Darren Rovell has put up a transcript of his interview of former SEC regional director Ira Lee Sorkin and me, and also news that Rovell is now considered a suspect for the murder "Mr. McMahon"!


Now this is a great post! Thanks. Very interesting subject!

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/19/2007 10:41 PM  

Nah, McMahon's also an actor on the TV show, and investors know that the WWE is entertainment.

Blogger Greg. -- 6/19/2007 11:40 PM  

Nah, McMahon's also an actor on the TV show, and investors know that the WWE is entertainment.

I'm not so sure that would be relevant. While the WWE's product is entertainment, the company itself is a serious business with shareholders and auditors and 10-K's and all that stuff. If McMahon were merely a company spokesman, without also being chairman of the WWE corporation, it would be much easier to conclude that this was an obvious stunt that shouldn't have misled anyone.

Anonymous Peter -- 6/20/2007 12:01 AM  

There is also the factor of McMahon sabotaging the build for his company's next PPV for the sake of promoting his ego (and parodying the real-life death tributes to Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, etc.) being bad for the company (and thus the stock.)

However, the idea that anyone bought that worked storyline being a threat to the company's future vis a vis him being alive or dead seems like a bit much.

Blogger Lou Pickney -- 6/20/2007 12:45 AM  

Seems to me this is simply a variation of a storyline we've seen before--and NOT an attempt to falsely raise the stock price.
A variation? Yes. Consider that, in the past, wrestlers have been "suspended", "fired", attacked in the back stage areas by "unknown" people, and even run over by cars, limos, T-boned by trucks (while in an ambulance outside the arena), etc.; even the wrestler Triple-H was supposedly burned a few years back when the bus he had boarded was hit by a concrete I-beam (dropped from a crane) and the bus blew up. Heck, even McMahon himself was involved when he stepped into another limo and the limo had its roof taken off . . . by running it under an 18-wheeler.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/20/2007 10:11 AM  

Has the author ever stopped to consider that Vinnie Mac may have alerted the investors AHEAD of time to make them aware of the upcoming promotional stunt? If he did so, there is nothing misleading about this, ergo, not subject to the laws, regulations and rules of the SEC.

Sorry, but you overstepped your boundaries on this one.

Blogger Douglas -- 6/20/2007 11:21 PM  

Thanks for these comments.


Thank you for the kind words.


I agree with Peter's response to your point. Investors and fans are often different persons with different agendas. WWE Investors, as Peter notes, are presumably more concerned with the finances of the WWE than the actual product (although I concede that there is some overlap).


You raise several interesting points. Whether McMahon is looking out more for his personal reputation than his shareholders is something those shareholders will have to consider. Then again, McMahon has a long and impressive track-record for good, perhaps great, business judgment, and those who have been in business with him have likely done well.


Yes, both Darren Rovell and I stopped to consider that Vince McMahon may have alerted investors before-hand. And revealingly, WWE made no mention of that in the defense they articulated to Rovell, even after being pressed by Rovell about the legal ramifications of the fake death. Moreover, no investor has publicly indicated that he or she was made aware before-hand. If you have information that neither the WWE nor any of its shareholders has thus far provided to CNBC and other news outlets, please share it.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 6/21/2007 12:41 AM  

I know that Vincent McMahon is the most important member of the WWE corporation and that staging the death of the most senior member of a publicly traded company would be anathema to most companies and their stock prices.

However, since the character "Mr. McMahon" predates the lauching of the WWE IPO and contributes to the product's desirability, popularity and profitability, one could argue that his character is one of the company's assets and was one of the key factors of the IPO's initial success. In fact, I assume that the WWE owns the character of Mr. McMahon as it owns the rights to a number of its other characters.

To take the point further, wouldn't the WWE be denying its shareholders the full value of the product if was to withhold the services of the immensely popular heel character of Mr. McMahon or by relegating the character to "non-traditional" wrestling storylines. After all, the Mr. McMahon death storyline has renewed interest (however tawdry) in the upcoming WWE PPV and may very well boost the profits of the company. I need not remind the readers of this blog that the WWE brand was established on "traditional" wrestling storylines such as the fake "deaths" of Undertaker (numerous times), Kane and Paul Bearer not to mention the storylines involving forced weddings, necrophilia, repeated assaults, vandalism and even hostile company takeovers by characters ranging from Triple H to Shane McMahon to Linda McMahon to Stone Cold Steve Austin (a matter for the SEC if there ever was one).

My issue with the WWE is solely centred on the issue of taste and decency on the airwaves but that's a matter for the FCC not the SEC.

Anonymous Jason Chung -- 6/21/2007 1:55 AM  

Macmahon came to June 25ths monday Night Raw himself and announced that the Monday Night Raw was supposedly supposed to be a tribute for his fallen characer, "Mr. Macmahon" when there was a real death of a one awsome superstar, Chris Benoit, and so the show was a memorial dedication to Chirs Benoit and it was a review of his history and greatest matches, therefore, there was no live audiences and no live matches. Although a great amount of superstars admit that WWE is fake and is all acting, i believe that Mr Macmahon has gone too far. I have notices some mistakeds he had made in his script. Although Mcmahon states that it was supposed to be the tribute to his fake, "fallen WWE character," his son, Shane, and daughter, Stephanie, were very annoyed and depressed due to their "father's" death, "Vince Macmahon" was their father, and not the WWE character, "Mr. Macmahon" which proves the fact that he faked his own death, along with his character's death. Furthermore, Mcmahon hadthe FBI or CIA involved in his case which was a very unappropriate choice to make, noticing the great amount of cases occuring in America. At last, I don't know if Mr. Macmahon realizes this, but he just lost his storyline. Good luck creating a new one, actor.

Anonymous AC -- 6/25/2007 10:39 PM  

It was obvious from the beginning it was just a stunt for the show.

Even someone who has HEARD about wrestling, would question whether it was real or not.

That that one step further, if anyone watched the footage at all, or any of the events that played out afterwards, it would be even more obvious that it was a stunt.

(IE: footage of Stephanie talking about her father's death... a great actress she is not).

So, if someone is investing in shares, and knows NOTHING about wrestling, they are an idiot in the first place for investing in something they know nothing about, and deserve to lose their money.

If someone is investing in the business, they SHOULD have at least a general knowledge. And if they do, they should be intelligent enough to realize it was just a stunt from the beginning, without blinking an eye.


Blogger Angur -- 6/28/2007 9:23 AM  

Vince should be thrown in jail for fakin his death. i don't care if it is part of entertainment. the fact to the matter is a real death happen. Vince has some nerve. he did that for attention andto make everyone feel bad the way they treated them. Stephanie is a terrible actor, right there you can tell by looking her in the eye and the way she looked. she didn't even crack a tear that slut. That detective must of been paid by vince to act the whole thing out. that DNA could of came from his hair or his pubic hair when he was in that limbo before. how do i even know if that ain't a real detective, he didn't even show a badge or in formation that he is a certified detective. Chris Benoit death was for real. and vince had some nerve to fake his death. how do you think the wrestlers, the divas, and the employees feel about what vince did. one of these days i want to be a WWE superstar, so if i make it to the WWE I won't respect vince like i use to.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/09/2007 12:25 AM  

fuck Vince Mcmahon and all your children and all who supported you in your fake 'death' idea!

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