Last week, Forbes interviewed AEW CEO Tony Khan, where it was revealed that despite receiving over $40 million from TNT in 2020, AEW remained in the red financially due to an eight-figure investment into the video game business, which has seen them release one mobile game so far, with another mobile game and their main video game currently in development.
This investment received heavy criticism, with AEW being a relatively new company. AEW CEO Tony Khan gas hit back at the critics, however, during an interview with PWInsider.
‘I’ve made this huge investment into video games and it’s comical to me that anybody would try to pull it… it goes to show that I think people will try and take a negative out of a positive sometimes because this is a hugely positive thing. Our wrestling company is very profitable. The only reason I won’t net money this year on AEW in our second full year of operations, which is pretty amazing, frankly, for a startup that has had the level of investment that we’ve had behind AEW and the amount of time that this has been going, that we’ll be significantly profitable already as a venture.
The huge market cap this company would potentially have if I had any interest in taking it public, which I don’t…I care about the company so much, and it is a great asset, but I don’t see it as an asset to leverage or try and squeeze every dollar out of it. I’m a people person. So I would say this honestly, like I care about running a profitable business, but I also take a lot of pride in the fact that I didn’t lay people off through the pandemic. Almost everybody, we have a over 95% retention rate of people through the pandemic and I actually had significantly higher than 95%. Almost everybody that we started with is here.
Not only that, but we’ve added so many people through the pandemic and expanded and grown in the past year in so many ways. I’m not trying to cut back at all. I want to grow the company and invest in people now with the fans coming back is a great time to do that. So that anybody would try and draw a negative out of the fact that the wrestling operation is profitable this year, but that the company technically won’t be in the black because I’m making this huge investment into gaming and video games.’
Later in the interview, Khan commented on AEW’s return to touring next month, which will see them introduce the new weekly TNT show, AEW: Rampage. If things go smoothly for the next year, fans can expect to see four weekly AEW shows, a major video game and potentially even more, as the company begin to expand further.
‘I expect we’ll continue to see great growth. And with the launch of Rampage, things are really shaping up for a great 2022 as it will be the first full year of Rampage. So, it’s going to be a huge year for us, but in 2021, I’m making an investment. While a lot of people were pulling out and cutting back and not investing during the pandemic, I made an investment in people and also frankly, a huge investment in video games. I’m an investor in the gaming space, and I think I’ve been a savvy investor. I made a large investment with my family that I pushed my family to make and kind of, along with AEW, I would describe it as one of the two investments where I’ve kind of dragged my dad across the goal line a little bit.’
AEW are set to make their return to touring on July 7th, starting in Florida before venturing further afield as states begin to ease their Coronavirus restrictions.