It looks like World Championship Wrestling is whipped. Sources familiar with the floundering Time Warner wrestling franchise confirm that it's got to go, and Linda McMahon, CEO of the World Wrestling Federation, told Wall Street and the world last week that the WWF wouldn't mind taking it.
Last week, after launching the WWF on the New York Stock Exchange, McMahon told a reporter on CNBC's
that "we have had some conversations with the folks at the WCW, but there is no deal in place. I don't know if a deal could or would get done. It would have to make sense on both sides."
Time Warner has been looking to lose the WCW since hooking up with AOL, a Turner source said, because AOL is such a bottom-line company. The WCW is losing money to the tune of $60 million this year, according to a Wall Street analyst.
He was unable to put a value to the WCW, because its cash flow is buried in Time Warner's financials, but he called it "petty cash to an AOL Time Warner." Time Warner is valued at about $93 billion. The WWF itself is valued at a little over $1 billion.
A WCW spokesman said speculation about the WWF's buying the WCW has been circulating for weeks on the Internet, where rabid wrestling fans have created a backstory rivaling the campy soap of the actual programs. "We've not been told anything one way or the other," he said.
Brad Siegel, president of general entertainment for Turner, did not return calls regarding the sale of the WCW, which he heads.
Siegel brought in former WWF writers Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo last April to turn the franchise around after more than a year of sliding ratings. Instead of being saviors, Bischoff and Russo wreaked havoc, writing storylines that vilified audience favorite Goldberg and humiliating Hulk Hogan, who eventually sued the company.
Bischoff is now gone, and Russo is on recuperative leave for a head injury. Siegel started cost-cutting at the WCW in August by taping both Nitro and Thunder
on one night instead of two. A $12 million cutback in talent is said to be in the works as well.
Meanwhile, the WWF wooed Wall Street with a block party for its NYSE debut.