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Acquire This!

WWE’s prescient network strategy and quest for new audiences (women! Emiratis!) are turning potential buyers’ heads

The building that houses the headquarters of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. stands just off Interstate 95 in Stamford, Conn. Its facade is vaguely menacing, a curtain of black glass topped by a Jolly Rogeresque black flag. Inside the lobby, visitors pass by a life-size statue of Andre the Giant, the 7-foot-4-inch, 520-pound superstar of yesteryear. It’s a sensation not unlike strolling under the vast basilica of a Roman temple. Welcome to this divine space, ye slight-statured mortal.

On a Friday afternoon in December, Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s chief brand officer, is seated in her office on the top floor. She’s dressed in black, with earrings shaped like daggers. Near her desk is a football signed by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who last year brandished his meaty deltoids in the ring at WrestleMania 33.

McMahon says she’s on a cleanse and hasn’t had coffee for days. The resulting headaches have abated, however, and she riffs exuberantly on the universal modalities of pro wrestling. “The notion of good vs. evil is translatable and one of the oldest stories since the beginning of time,” she says.

Lately, while many entertainment companies are being pummeled, WWE has been on a roll. On Feb. 8, the day it announced fourth-quarter earnings, its share price closed at $33.84, up 73 percent from a year earlier and near an all-time high. In 2017, WWE generated $50.6 million of net income on $801 million of revenue, its largest haul ever. The wrestling promotion is also being floated as a potential acquisition target for big media and tech companies hungry for live programming. Brandon Ross, an analyst at BTIG LLC, has suggested that Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, AT&T,

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