Last month, WWE’s stock hit a 52 week high of $23.63 less than 7 months after dipping to a close of $10.05 in January. While this may give the impression that WWE’s stock price is on a roll, insider selling (the common term used when top executives sell shares) tells a very different story.
- Michael Luisi – President of WWE Studios sold 29,894 shares in the month of August, reducing his holdings in WWE by approximately 40%
- Michelle Wilson – WWE Chief Marketing Officer sold 25,000 shares reducing her holdings by almost 30%
- Kevin Dunn – Executive Producer sold 40,000 shares reducing his holdings by approximately 20%
- Mark Kowal – Corporate Controller sold 6,000 shares reducing his holdings by approximately 33%
- Stephanie McMahon Levesque – WWE Chief Branding Officer sold 174,069 shares in August, reducing her holdings by 7.1%
- Basil Devito – WWE Senior Advisor of Business Strategy sold 4,100 shares in August, reducing holdings by approximately 5%
Now before anyone goes full on Chicken Little, it should be noted that there are several reasons why insiders sell stock. In some cases, they are simply looking to diversify their portfolios or reduce risk. Costly events such as weddings or college tuition can also drive insider sales. People use automatic buy and sell triggers that go into effect once a stock hits a certain price, which was the cause of some of this selling. That being said, it is worth noting the number of high level executives that all sold significant percentages of their holdings in August.
The general consensus is that this has more to do with profit taking than anything else. Historically, WWE’s stock price rarely gets over $20 per share. The last time this happened was in early 2014 when it broke out to the low 30s before quickly cratering back into the the $12-$15 range. As most of these insiders have been with the company for some time, chances are they didn’t want to miss out on another profit taking opportunity.
Even so, insiders selling 20-40% of their holdings can be read as a serious lack of faith in the direction of the WWE. While paid network subscriptions continue to grow, the company does not appear to be bringing in new fans. Ratings for Raw continue to sag and the company continues to struggle in terms of finding a future “Face of the WWE” to replace John Cena. As much as I love both NXT and the main roster, I don’t see anyone capable of taking the torch from Cena, especially with the little kids.
As stated in the company’s most recent quarterly filing, WWE live events are struggling. Taking out Wrestlemania (as it was booked in Q1 2014 vs. Q2 in 2015), live event revenue only increased by a paltry $2 million despite the fact that there were 12 additional live events in Q2 2015. The reason for this? Sagging attendance. Live events drew an average of 5,400 in Q2 2015 vs 7,000 for the same period in 2014.
As someone who plays the Wall Street ponies, I don’t blame any of them for taking money off the table, especially considering how much the stock has gone up in the past 9 months. Hell, I won’t own it at this level. There’s way too much risk trying to project the growth of the network. Even so, watching several major insiders dump 30-40% of their holdings at basically the same time doesn’t give me warm fuzzies.
The bottom line is that if the company doesn’t find their next Cena/Rock/Austin/Taker, WWE is likely going to have some serious long term issues.
Disclosure Statement: I have no positions of WWE stock and have no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I have no business relationship with any company or individual mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Also, please note that I am not an analyst and these are just my opinions based on insider sales data. If you’re looking for investment advice, talk to a professional and don’t heed any advice from rank amateurs like myself.