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She's the candidate with her own ticker symbol: WWE. (On Linda)
But Wall Street is not nearly as bullish about World Wrestling Entertainment as the at-times fawning Republican base has been here in Connecticut about Linda McMahon, the company's former chief executive and repeat contender for U.S. Senate.
Since McMahon's first run two years ago, WWE's stock price has plunged from $18.64 to $7.86 per share
, hurting not just garden variety investors but also the first family of wrestling, which owns 46 million of the wrestling empire's 75 million shares on a fully diluted basis.
That translates to a loss of a half-billion dollars
, 10 times more than the $50 million McMahon spent the last time on her unsuccessful candidacy.
"To me, it's indicative that maybe the McMahons care more about winning this Senate seat than their shareholders,"
said Peter Schiff, the brash money manager and talking head from Weston who lost a three-way Republican Senate primary to McMahon in 2010.
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"Linda no longer works for WWE," Murtaugh wrote by email to Greenwich Time. "If you want to talk about the company, you should call them."
Murtaugh subsequently released a statement Friday to the newspaper heralding McMahon's tenure at the WWE, which ended in September 2009 when she ceded the reins of the company to her husband, Vince McMahon.
Murtaugh used the opportunity to take a swipe at former U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5th District, the favorite to face McMahon in the general election.
"Linda built a successful business from the ground up," Murtaugh said. "She went from sharing a desk with her husband to employing more than 600 Connecticut residents. This is in stark contrast to Chris Murphy, who has created no jobs in the private sector."
Murphy spokesman Ben Marter railed on McMahon's corporate record.
"McMahon's attacks are just designed to distract voters from her miserable record of mistreating her employees and shipping jobs overseas," Marter said.
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WWE brass attributed the lackluster performance of the company's stock, which analysts told the newspaper pays a handsome annual dividend of 60 cents per share, to a confluence of factors that included the uncertainty over television network launch and losses on film projects such as "The Reunion," "Bending The Rules" and "That's What I Am."
"Obviously, you know correlation is not causation regarding Linda's tenure here," said George Barrios, the company's chief financial officer.
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Bradley Safalow, founder of Please Act Accordingly, otherwise known as PAA Research, an independent investment advisory firm based in New York City, said the communication between the WWE and its shareholders about the status of the languishing television network has been poor.
"The company is spending tens of millions on the launch and it has yet to find a distribution partner," said Safalow, who also identified film project losses as a drag on the stock.
Despite all that, Safalow has a "buy" rating on WWE stock, which has a dividend/yield of 6.3 percent.
"The core business has actually performed reasonably well in the economic environment," he said.
Safalow sees room for growth once the WWE network finally does premiere, which he said could be in the first quarter of 2013.
"I just think, in general, the enduring popularity of this business for decades is lost on the investing community," said Safalow, who described McMahon as impressive.
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Dave Meltzer, the San Jose-based editor of the Wrestling Observer, said the buzz surrounding the WWE network is that it could command a monthly subscriber fee of $9.95 to $18 and feature a wide array of programming that would ordinarily be shown on a pay-per-view basis.
The concern of incorporating pay-per-view content into the new network, Meltzer said, is that could cannibalize a lucrative source of revenue for the WWE.
"The subscription model has very high risks," Meltzer said. "I think part of the reason the stock price is down is there's tremendous skepticism over the network."
Representatives for the WWE said they are in talks with the nation's 10 leading telecommunications providers about a distribution plan and could have an announcement on the network's fate in the coming months.
"I'm sure the street would like to hear some more details about it," Barrios said. "I do believe the lack of visibility has affected the stock price somewhat."
Meltzer played down Linda McMahon's personal impact on the fortunes of the WWE.
"When it was good she had nothing to do with that. When it was bad she had nothing to do with it," Meltzer said.
He credited Vince McMahon with being the driving force behind the WWE. "I never credit her for the business," Meltzer said. "That would be like George Lucas' wife running for office and saying, `I'm responsible for `Star Wars,' when maybe she did a lot of bookkeeping."
David Trainer, principal of New Constructs, a Brentwood, Tenn., investment research firm, and a former Forbes.com contributor, is still on the WWE stock bandwagon.
"Our model still shows that it's still inexpensive," Trainer said. "It's a profitable business. I think it's a low-risk stock right now."
The Wall Street veteran nevertheless wondered if the shift to PG content could play into the hands of the UFC and mixed martial arts, which he said are seen as more authentic.
"MMA to WWE could be what iPhone was to the BlackBerry. Who knows?" Trainer said.
ON PG- Rating
WWE suits scoffed at the idea that the rebranding was tied to McMahon's plan to seek office, saying that its Friday Night SmackDown series went to a PG format in 1999, with Monday Night Raw following suit in 2008.
"Honestly, I think it's almost laughable that people think that," said Michelle Wilson, the company's chief marketing officer. "Politics had nothing to do with it."
Perhaps somewhat lost in the ski slope-like freefall of the WWE stock is how it impacts the bank account of the McMahons.
"Obviously, their net worth is down substantially based on the stock price," Schiff said. "If they keep this up, I'll pass them pretty soon."
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