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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will buy the assets of the bankrupt professional football league XFL as part of a group bid with his business partner Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital Partners.
The group is paying $15 million for substantially all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL, according to a statement Monday.
Johnson and Garcia were looking at buying the XFL at the same time as Cardinale, with the two groups then deciding to join together to complete the purchase, Garcia said in an interview Monday morning. Garcia and Johnson were previously married.
“We were simultaneously all examining the property deeply,” said Garcia, who was a big fan of the XFL in its 2020 season and called Johnson when she saw the opportunity to buy it. “We were two groups who could see the magic of this league.”
Cardinale is a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner and his private investment firm RedBird manages $4 billion of capital. Cardinale partnered with the Steinbrenner family in 2002 to launch the YES Network, the no. 1 regional sports network in the U.S., according to the Redbird website.
“With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football,” Johnson said in the statement. The sale is subject to bankruptcy court approval at a hearing Friday and may be completed around August 21.
Alpha Entertainment filed for bankruptcy in April after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of the league’s first season. The upstart football league was founded in 2017 by promoter Vince McMahon, best known for making professional wrestling into a global business, and played its first game in 2020, according to a court filing. McMahon withdrew his bid to buy the XFL out of bankruptcy in May after opposition from creditors.
Johnson was on the University of Miami football team that won a national championship in 1991 and he rose to fame as a professional wrestler in McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. He was best known for his trademark line, “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” which he delivered with an arched eyebrow. Johnson then moved into acting.
The XFL’s 2020 season kicked off in February, shortly after the Super Bowl and the end of the National Football League’s season. “We consider ourselves a complement to all other forms and brands of football,” XFL president and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Pollack said in an interview Monday. The XFL had eight teams and laid off about 500 players when it filed for bankruptcy.
Garcia will be one of the few female owners of a professional sports league. “You’re going to find that the XFL is extremely vocal about normalizing equality and equalizing justice and patriotism is about expressing yourself,” she said Monday.
Players who kneel during the national anthem would not be disciplined, she said, adding, “We’re going to continue to be at the forefront of representing what a sports league should look like.”
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