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BenFred: Examining the details makes it harder to feel good about potential XFL comeback

BenFred: Examining the details makes it harder to feel good about potential XFL comeback

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You don’t have to be a graduate of the Harley Race Wrestling Academy to know a good heel turn when you see it.

Professional wrestling kingpin and XFL owner Vince McMahon is an expert at transitioning from friend to foe, and some believe he’s making the switch again while attempting to pull off another stunt suited for the ring, this time with his bankrupt football league.

Forget The Undertaker climbing out of a casket.

McMahon might bring the XFL back from the dead.

McMahon’s football league looked down for the count again when the XFL, citing financial chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. But based off of the feathers McMahon has ruffled lately, it might be too soon for the three count. Creditors owed by the XFL believe McMahon could be working to become the buyer of the league he put up for sale, after he uses the bankruptcy process to shelter himself from pandemic-related fallout.

Word that the BattleHawks could one day fly again was well received by fans in St. Louis who were told their new favorite team went kaput due to coronavirus after just five games. The Post-Dispatch on Wednesday confirmed a report that XFL president Jeffrey Pollack, one of the high-ranking XFL officials still collecting a paycheck, contacted The Dome about the terms of the lease agreement between the league and the venue.

Ka-Kaw? More like Ka-Caution.

Don’t get too excited just yet.

Also understand it’s hard to feel good about how McMahon is treating the people who had a lot more to do with you falling in love with the BattleHawks than he did.

If an XFL relaunch really is McMahon’s plan, and he can find a way to pull it off, he would have to start from scratch. New commissioner. New team president. New coaches. New players. His other option would be convincing some of the people he fired to return. Good luck with that.

Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck and McMahon have locked horns in a legal battle over the nearly $24 million Luck is owed. McMahon has argued that Luck was fired for cause, claiming the former commissioner should not get paid because he did things like work from home during a stay-at-home order created by the pandemic and use a company iPhone for personal use. The horror!

Former BattleHawks president Kurt Hunzeker, the president who came up with many of the reasons the BattleHawks cut through leftover NFL scar tissue to succeed in St. Louis, has not been contacted about any sort of potential return. But he has filed a claim for his salary, making him one of the creditors in the bankruptcy case.

Former BattleHawks coach Jonathan Hayes has gone from coaching on the sidelines of The Dome to sitting on the committee appointed by the United States Trustee that serves as a general bankruptcy counsel for XFL creditors. He is owed more than $630,000 from the XFL. Ouch.

Coronavirus sweeping the leg of the XFL made sense at the time of the league’s shutdown. McMahon had touted financial muscle and a multi-year commitment, but no one was prepared for the pandemic. A lack of hard feelings was noticeable after the firings in April. That’s been replaced by a sour taste as creditors begin to believe McMahon is manipulating the bankruptcy process at their expense.

Three recent objections filed by McMahon’s creditors paint a picture of the playbook those owed by the XFL fear McMahon is using.

McMahon is accused of using his significant leverage over Alpha Entertainment, the company McMahon founded in 2017 to revive the spring football league, to rush the sale of the league in order to decrease competition during the coronavirus pandemic, and to secure an inside track on his chance to reclaim the league at a “fire sale” price. He is set to have an ability to examine competing bids for the league, and to avoid a cash-only offer unlike the competitors, something that could discourage others from getting involved.

Beyond that, McMahon’s creditors want to know why he is spending to keep open XFL headquarters, why he is continuing to pay a certain number of high-ranking league officials, why he is pushing hard for ticket refunds while not paying other debts, and why this bankruptcy would not be better off with an unbiased trustee selling off the league’s assets, which include everything from football equipment to the intellectual property of the XFL’s eight teams.

One of the objections states plainly what McMahon’s creditors believe he hopes to do with those assets.

“McMahon’s intentions are laid to bare when considering his decision to shutter the league and then advance debt to the company, rather than infuse equity, in the face of the many public statements and reports that McMahon was prepared to invest several hundred million dollars in the league and absorb significant losses over a several year period in order to ensure the ultimate success of the enterprise,” the objection reads. “Instead, seizing an opportunity to shed significant liabilities and at the expense of the many creditors and vendors that detrimentally relied on McMahon’s comments and commitment to backstop the league as it matured into a profitable enterprise, McMahon is the principal architect of a loan-to-own strategy that that would benefit him at the expense of unsecured creditors.”

McMahon is accused of turning heel because it helped him.

Don’t expect an old wrestler to abandon old tricks.

As one of his critics said Thursday: “How many times can you fall in love with the same person?”

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