Dany Garcia on Becoming First Female Sports League Owner with XFL: 'The Potential Is So Amazing'
"It's wonderful to have a business partner who respects everything that I do and knows the importance of who I am as a female leader, and as a Latina, that I think is really, really wonderful," Dany Garcia tells PEOPLE
On Monday, the longtime business partners announced a $15 million deal to acquire the XFL, nearly four months after the league folded midway into its inaugural season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The deal, made with investment firm RedBird Capital, means the XFL will have one more chance to emerge as an alternative to the NFL.
"This is one of the icon moments for me, I would call it," Garcia, 51, tells PEOPLE of becoming part-owner of the organization. "It's an icon moment."
When the XFL kicked off in February, it was WWE chairman Vince McMahon's second attempt at getting the league off the ground after its original iteration lasted a single season in 2001. While the season ended early, it was enough for Garcia to notice the fan bases that had developed for each of the league's eight teams.
"It was so wonderful to see this natural movement by the fan base to just have a blast and engage deeply, and know that it mattered," Garcia says. "I think one of the greatest things about the XFL, as a startup, is that everyone recognizes every moment matters. It matters to the person who's in the seat. It matters to the athlete who's on the field ... that's magic, right? You care. When you care, that changes everything."
A few weeks after the league shuttered in April, Garcia says she approached 48-year-old Johnson — a former WWE superstar — with the idea of acquiring it.
"He's like, 'I'm so in, we're in,' " Garcia recalls. "We started moving like mad. We were moving quickly and getting bankers and attorneys and everyone involved. Looking into the books, having extensive conversations with management. It was a bankruptcy proceeding, so we couldn't chat with Vince about any of this."
"But the potential is so amazing," she says.
The plan is to keep "a lot of things" from McMahon's XFL — such as its infrastructure and leadership — while making improvements to how the league entertains fans during the offseason.
"You will see more content coming out around the league. The league for us needs to be an experience that's 365 days, 24/7," Garcia explains. "The live portion of the XFL is during the spring, but there's so much to talk about throughout the year."
"I have a production company, so making sure that content is there, and sharing that with the audience is going to be a big part of our work as well," she adds. "Eventually, there's team expansion. That's got to happen."
The XFL purchase puts Garcia in a unique position — while there are a growing number of female sports team owners, virtually none can say they own an entire league.
"I am usually one of the few, if not the only woman in the room," says Garcia, the chairwoman of The Garcia Companies. "It's not a unique position for me."
"The fact that I am the first woman owner of an entire league, that's an amazing thing. Especially because the making of it was following my dreams," she says. "That's what makes it so beautiful. I was just passionate about following my dreams and had an incredible team and support around me. And it's wonderful when what you're doing actually can matter to so many people. And for that, I'm grateful."
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Garcia and Johnson, who were once married and share an 18-year-old daughter, have amassed an impressive portfolio of business investments over the years, including Seven Bucks Productions and Teremana Tequila. While the XFL is a radically different venture for the duo, Garcia says she wouldn't want anyone else to be by her side when heading into the gridiron.
"We've known each other very, very long time, and it's great — it's actually fantastic," Garcia says of working with Johnson. "We have very unique roles. We have skills that complement each other. He likes to say I build the spaceship and he flies it, but I think he's being very conservative and polite that way."
"But it's fun, it's passionate. Our families are so, so very close, and to have a business partner who respects everything I do, and knows the importance of who I am as a female leader, and as a Latina, I think is really, really wonderful," she continues. "It's been fantastic, and I think people recognize that because we do so many big things. We've been so blessed."
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