The XFL has new owners — and they plan to tackle their investment with Hollywood flair.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a group of investors have scooped up the floundering football league for just $15 million in a deal that got rubber-stamped by a US bankruptcy judge on Friday.
But instead of rushing to push players back onto the gridiron, Johnson — teaming up with his ex-wife and business manager Dany Garcia and the prolific sports banker Gerry Cardinale — are drawing up plans to remake the XFL into an entertainment powerhouse, sources told The Post.
That means potentially creating reality-TV programming akin to HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which follows an NFL team in the preseason, introducing viewers to players and coaches. Indeed, the XFL is considering a similar show that would span the whole season, according to sources close to the situation.
Likewise, the group aims to capitalize on Johnson’s star power not only as a box-office draw, but also as a former college football player and a WWE wrestler. One possibility, sources said, is to bring the XFL into storylines on Johnson’s current HBO show “Ballers,” in which he plays a retired NFL star turned business manager.
The plans are in the early stages, and insiders said one thing is clear: The XFL is in no hurry to resurrect the XFL’s second-ever attempt at a season, which got scrapped in March after just five weeks because of a coronavirus outbreak. After filing for Chapter 11 in April, the league is now eyeing a 2021 return at the earliest while it “methodically” lines up a comprehensive strategy to rope in more viewers, according to a source.
“You’re only going to launch this one more time,” cautioned the insider. “There’s no need to rush it with this bold new plan.”
The relaunch — which will be the third after 2001 and this year — also could mean new broadcasting deals. Disney and Fox have made it clear in recent months that they wanted their contracts with the XFL renegotiated, claiming that without its charismatic founder Vince McMahon, the XFL was a weaker product.
Johnson and Cardinale’s RedBird Partners aren’t going to fight to enforce those contracts and are preparing to market a new media package to all potential buyers, including streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, insiders said.
Cardinale, a Goldman Sachs veteran, was a key player in creating Legends Hospitality, the massive ticketing and concessions firm created as a joint venture between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees. He also played a key role in creating the Yankees’ YES cable network.
Contrary to recent reports, sources said Cardinale’s role in the XFL purchase is not being funded by RedBird’s upcoming $500 million SPAC offering. That listing, set to price on Aug. 12, is instead likely to focus on acquiring a major European soccer club, according to a source.