Former XFL Commish Sues Vince McMahon Over Termination

By Zachary Zagger
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Law360 (April 21, 2020, 7:55 PM EDT) -- Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck hit league founder and World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. CEO Vince McMahon with a lawsuit claiming he is still owed money from his contract after he was wrongfully terminated before the professional football league filed for bankruptcy earlier in April amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit filed in Connecticut federal court on Thursday specifically named McMahon, who funded the XFL before it went bankrupt halfway through its inaugural season. The suit disputes the reasons for Luck's termination and claims McMahon breached his guaranty of Luck's employment contract. 

"Mr. Luck wholly disputes and rejects the allegations set forth in the termination letter and contends they are pretextual and devoid of merit," the redacted complaint said.

Luck, a former NFL quarterback, joined the XFL as commissioner in May 2018 after serving as an executive with the NCAA and athletic director at West Virginia University. He helped launch the league, which sought to be a spring alternative to the NFL.

The league kicked off in February to some success but its inaugural season was cut short over concerns of the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The league reportedly shut down operations and laid off its staff before the league's corporate entity, Alpha Entertainment LLC, which was founded by McMahon in 2017, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 13.

But Luck is not seeking any judgment against Alpha, according to the complaint. Damages sought against McMahon in the lawsuit were redacted. 

A statement to Law360 on behalf of McMahon from attorney James A. Wright III of K&L Gates LLP said Luck was terminated on April 9 for reasons set forth in that letter.

"As to the lawsuit he filed, his allegations will be disputed and the position of Mr. McMahon will be set forth in our response to his lawsuit," the statement said.

McMahon announced in 2018 he was relaunching the ill-fated XFL that folded after one season in 2001 to capitalize on the demand for more professional football. The league's format called for a 10-week regular season with a post-season that was to include two semifinal playoff games and a championship game.

Alpha said the cancellation of the league's final five weeks of play on March 12 cost it an estimated $27 million in ticket sales and game-day revenue in bankruptcy filings. Alpha's revenue in 2020 was about $14 million, while its net losses were $44 million.

According to bankruptcy filings, McMahon is set to provide up to $3.5 million in debtor-in-possession financing so Alpha can pursue a Chapter 11 sale.

An attorney for Luck declined to comment on the suit Tuesday. 

Luck is represented by Andrew M. Zeitlin and Joette Katz of Shipman & Goodwin LLP.

McMahon's counsel in the lawsuit was not immediately available.

The case is Luck v. McMahon, case number 3:20-cv-00516, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

--Editing by Amy Rowe.

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