When the XFL suspended operations and laid off all its employees on April 10th, it was just the first part in dismantling the nascent league. But according to a piece by Daniel Kaplan in The Athletic, it’s possible the league is trying to reorganize under a new entity still controlled by WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
Is Vince McMahon trying to buy his own XFL out of Delaware bankruptcy court? The XFL’s creditors seem to think so, and sources said XFL president Jeffrey Pollack has called venues in St. Louis and Seattle about reinstating the lease agreements.
The XFL, 80 percent owned by McMahon through Alpha Entertainment and 20 percent by his WWE empire, launched Feb. 7 and lasted five weeks before shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league shut down for good April 10 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy three days later.
But was that just a cutthroat finance ploy by McMahon to ride out the pandemic and resultant economic turmoil without paying the costs of operating the league? That’s what was asked by one former team official, who passed on the tips about Seattle and St. Louis. A representative for Visit St. Louis, which oversees the Dome at America’s Center where the BattleHawks played, confirmed Pollack had reached out about the lease.
When asked about the possibility McMahon may have filed for Chapter 11 protection to restart the league, a spokesman hired by the XFL wrote in an email, “The response to this filing will speak for itself.”
And it appears that McMahon might have found someone to do his bidding here that’s very familiar with shady bankruptcy practices. Jeffrey Pollack is the President & Chief Operating Officer of the XFL, and is still being paid by the league that no longer pays coaches, players, or commissioners. He’s worked in various sports entities from the Professional Bull Riding tour to the marketing department for the San Diego Chargers.
He was also the Executive Chairman of the Epic Poker League, which promised prominent poker players the chance to win additional money by qualifying for their “league championship” freeroll at the end of a four tournament season. The structure was basically if you play the first four tournaments and get enough points, you’ll get to play a fifth tournament for free and could win up to $1 million. That was in addition to the $400,000 added to each prize pool for the four qualifying tournaments.
One small problem: The Epic Poker League declared bankruptcy after just three of their tournaments. So everything the players had been promised, including the additional equity of the final tournament, just went out the window. But guess who did get paid? The two executives that ran up over $5 million in debt while having pennies in the bank: Jeffrey Pollack and former professional poker player Annie Duke. Meanwhile over 100 contractors ended up with crumbs from bankruptcy court.
How bad was it for the Epic Poker League? They started by purchasing the successful and profitable Heartland Poker Tour, and actually missed their first payment on the sale. When another $2 million payment was due on February 29th, 2012, they filed for bankruptcy on February 28th to prevent All-In Productions from re-taking control of the HPT.
If Vince McMahon is looking for someone to make potentially shady deals in bankruptcy court, he might have found his horse in Pollack.
Will this work, and could we see McMahon or one of his entities playing spring football again? It seems the frequent villain on WWE television — whose tag line of always doing “what’s best for business“ often blurs the line between reality and storyline — might be trying to do the same thing with his former twice-failed sports league.