Rumors are circulating that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The claims started from a now-deleted tweet by a wrestling reporter with the sports streaming service DAZN. However, the claims are unfounded.
“Contrary to reports stating otherwise last night, there is no deal in place at this precise moment for WWE to be sold to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund or any entity, sources say. The organization is still exploring all options, I’m told. Developing,” tweeted sports journalist Ariel Helwani in an attempt to squash the rumors.
The "fake news" isn’t too much of a stretch to believe, with the past management issues at the WWE. After longtime WWE CEO Vince McMahon left the organization this summer amid sexual misconduct allegations, there has been speculation that the publicly-traded organization may be looking for new owners, Front Office Sports reports.
What is the Saudi PIF?
The Saudi PIF is a sovereign wealth fund that makes investments on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government. A sovereign wealth fund is a state-owned investment fund that buys stakes in stocks, bonds, real estate, and hedge funds.
The Saudi PIF was created in 1971 to help establish companies “of foundational importance” to the Saudi economy. In 2015, it was reorganized and put under the direction of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), which is controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to the PIF website, the move was made to give the PIF greater autonomy and better-defined national strategic responsibilities.
What does the Saudi PIF own?
The Saudi PIF is reportedly one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, with an estimated $620 billion in assets. Some of the PIF’s international investments include:
Softbank Group Corp.
The Saudi PIF has also invested in other sports franchises. In 2021, the PIF acquired the Newcastle United Football Club for about $415 million. A division of the PIF also established the new professional golf tour LIV Golf, much to the ire of the PGA Tour. Several top-name pro golfers have left the PGA Tour and joined LIV Golf, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Graeme McDowell.
Saudi PIF has been accused of sportswashing.
Critics accuse the Saudi PIF of using its stake in popular sports franchises as a way to divert attention from Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. The term for this is called “sportswashing.”
Saudi Arabia is repeatedly ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for political and civil liberty freedoms. The country doesn’t recognize LGBTQ rights, and people in that community are punished for their lifestyle. That could present a problem if the Saudi PIF were to purchase the WWE because many WWE wrestlers identify as LGBTQ, reports the Washington Examiner.
Also, Saudi government operatives are suspected of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the request of the Crown Prince.