Dany Garcia & Dwayne Johnson Reveal United Football League Plans

Dany Garcia is springing forward with a football merger…

The 55-year-old Cuban American businesswoman, professional bodybuilder and producer and her ex-husband Dwayne Johnson have revealed plans for the United Football League, the new spring pro football league born from the merger of the XFL and USFL.

Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, United Football League, UFLDuring an appearance this morning on Fox’s NFL on Fox, Garcia and Johnson announced that the UFL’s debut season will begin March 30, 2024 with a game between the Arlington Renegades and Birmingham Stallions, the previous champions from each league.

More details are expected soon regarding teams and markets.

Last year was Johnson and Garcia’s only season as co-owners with RedBird Capital Partners of the resurrected XFL, which was competing with the USFL for NFL-offseason eyeballs.

The USFL itself was in its second season of its own revival, operating with a joint broadcast deal with both NBC and Fox, with the latter also holding a minority stake in the league.

A release today noted five UFL partners: former XFL owners Johnson, Garcia and RedBird’s Gerry CardinaleFox Sports (led by CEO Erik Shanks) and ESPN (led by chairman Jimmy Pitaro). ESPN was the XFL’s broadcast partner last season.

Russ Brandon, former president and CEO of the XFL, will be president and CEO of the UFL. Daryl Johnston, former USFL President of Football Operations, will lead football ops.

A promo logo suggests games will be played on ABC, ESPN, Fox and FS1.

The XFL and USFL originally announced their intent to merge in September after low-key seasons for each.

The USFL Championship game in July drew about 1.16 million viewers on NBC, while the XFL title game a few weeks later pulled in 1.43 million viewers on ABC.

Dany Garcia Among the New Owners of the XFL

It’s game on for Dany Garcia

The 51-year-old Cuban American businesswoman and producer, her former husband Dwayne Johnson and RedBird Capital Partners have bought the XFL, a twice-unsuccessful professional football alternative to the NFL fronted by WWE chief Vince McMahon, for $15 million.

Dany Garcia

Garcia and her business partners were selected as the winning bidder for the assets controlled by Alpha Entertainment, the parent company of the XFL.

The transaction is subject to bankruptcy court approval at a hearing this Friday. Assuming that closing conditions are satisfied, the acquisition is expected to close on or shortly after August 21.

In announcing the deal, Garcia and her fellow projected new owners said they have secured “the ability to option live entertainment intellectual property for further expansion across sports, live events and original entertainment programming.”

The XFL, which had two single-season attempts to go up against the NFL, one in 2000 and the second this year, was fronted by McMahon and the WWE, which owned a 23.5% stake in the league. After starting its season in February, the XFL was forced to shut down due to COVID-19 in March. It filed for bankruptcy in April.

“For Dwayne, Gerry and myself, this property represents an incredible opportunity. It is the confluence of great passion, tradition and possibility” Garcia said. “Sports and entertainment are the foundations of the businesses I have built. Melding our expertise combined with our commitment to deliver exciting and inspiring unique content, has us all focused on developing the XFL brand into a multi-media experience that our athletes, partners and fans will proudly embrace and love.”

Johnson has a connection to the sport, having played college football at Miami.

“The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things – my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans,” Johnson said. “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”

Jeffrey Pollack, president and COO of the XFL, called it a “Hollywood ending” to the process of seeking a sale.

Garcia and Johnson are co-founders of Seven Bucks Companies, a multi-platform enterprise pioneering original content for television, film, emerging technologies and digital networks.

RedBird was founded by former Goldman Sachs partner Cardinale. He has orchestrated a range of major sports deals over the past 20 years involving his clients and teams like the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys as well as leagues like the NFL.

The XFL was the latest in a long line of failed attempts to dislodge the NFL from its perch as the No. 1 sports league in America. Football fans haven’t tuned in en masse for leagues like the Alliance of American Football, the United States Football League or the World Football League.

The first XFL season, in 2000, provided a brief summertime splash in the ratings for NBC, which was a part-owner of the league at the time, before quickly fading.

The latest iteration of the XFL differed from the first attempt in that it didn’t try to amp up the violence or present more scantily clad cheerleaders. Kickoffs, a routine feature of games that experts have linked to high rates of concussions, underwent a dramatic change in the XFL, with teams lining up close to each other so as to eliminate running-start collisions. Other innovations included microphones on the sidelines, enabling fans to follow the game in more detail.