Ed Nordholm on Broken Matt Hardy gimmick: "We paid for it. We have invested in it, it’s our asset."
Ed Nordholm is the Executive Vice President of Anthem Sports & Entertainment, as well as the president of Global Force Wrestling/Impact. He is also currently in control of the “Broken Universe” intellectual property. Sports Illustrated spoke with Nordholm for more clarity on Anthem’s interest in the intellectual property, whether WWE is interested in acquiring the property, and if there are any on-going negotiations between the Hardys and Anthem.
SI: Given the recent negative publicity toward GFW/Impact, most notably an indefinite suspension of your world champion, would Anthem be best served by coming to terms with the Hardys over the Broken Universe intellectual property?
Nordholm: No. I don’t see how they’re related at all.
SI: Anthem sent a cease and desist order to Matt Hardy, preventing him from using the “Broken” trademark in every way, including name, character, costume, the “Brother Nero” name and persona for Jeff Hardy, the Vanguard I drone, the Senor Benjamin character (though the man playing Senor Benjamin never signed a release or a contract), the “Delete” salute, as well as even “Broken” Twitter handles. Why do you believe Anthem is correct in its assertion that it owns these trademarks?
Nordholm: Because Matt Hardy, his brother [Jeff Hardy], and his wife [Reby Hardy] have all signed contracts that sign over all rights to the IP. That is the fundamental term of every term for every wrestler on our show, that’s a fundamental term for every wrestler with WWE, and that is the same contract that Ring of Honor has. It’s not really up for debate.
SI: Generally, the producer of a show owns the content; for example, the person who invests in the show owns the characters. The Hardys have stated that they spent thousands of dollars to buy and create shots for the tapings from their compound in North Carolina. Does the fact that the Hardys invested money into the company and the characters (for example, the $3,000 volcano purchased by Jeff Hardy for the “Apocalypto” episode) change the dynamic of ownership in the case of the Hardys v. Anthem?
Nordholm: No. The company spent millions of dollars producing television last year, including all of the shows that incorporate the various aspects of the “Broken Brilliance.” I don’t know whether Jeff and Matt had some out-of-pocket expenses that they might have had on the volcano and the like, but that would not change, in any way, shape, or form, what their contracts say about who owns the IP. If they had some out-of-pocket expenses, they certainly never brought them to my attention. To suggest that they somehow funded the show is absurd.
SI: You have stated that the WWE is not interested in the “Broken Universe” gimmick, yet the only public correspondence from the WWE regarding the subject was an email that you released that explained WWE was not interested in “getting involved.” The WWE rep never stated the company would refuse to use the “Broken” storyline if given the opportunity. That contradicts your assertion that WWE is not interested in the gimmick. Could you clarify your statement on the matter?
Nordholm: I don’t think there is anything more to say beyond the email. We asked whether they were interested in negotiating for it, and they told us they have no interest.
SI: You released one of the versions of Matt Hardy’s contract. Are you at all worried that move could be deemed as a breach of confidentiality in a court of law? Also, are you prepared to go to court to fight for ownership of the “Broken” intellectual property?
Nordholm: One, I’m not at all concerned about whether releasing a single clause of a contract is breaking any obligation or confidentiality. It’s relatively immaterial, especially in the context of the world in which Matt and his wife are creating all this noise about his contractual rights in the absence of any contractual rights to the IPs. I think he’s started a world in which he is prepared to tell falsehoods about the status of his contract. If we do go to court, his contract will be produced in discovery, and it will be public–all of it, and not just the clauses that are relevant. I don’t think there is any issue around confidentiality.
I don’t have to go to court to fight for [the IP]. We own it. If Matt brings an action to us that says we don’t own it, I guess we’ll defend ourselves, but I don’t intend to take any particular proceedings. I know I own it. I’ve got a contract that says I own it. I don’t have to go to court to fight for it.
SI: Sports Illustrated reported that both the Hardys and Anthem were close to an agreement that would have sold the “Broken Universe” intellectual property for somewhere between $10-15,000, but it fell apart when Anthem reportedly increased its financial demands from the Hardys. Sources have reported that the plan from Anthem and Jeff Jarrett was to purposely draw out the process. Was there ever a deal in place, and, if so, what prevented it from completion?
Nordholm: What prevented it from completion is that we’ve never come to terms. I have made numerous efforts, going back to February and the time of the cease and desist letter [to Ring of Honor for advertising the “Broken” Hardys for their 15th Anniversary pay per view] to make an arrangement with Matt Hardy to use the gimmick. Every time we have those conversations, they sort of start warm then end up not coming to fruition due to an inability to come to an agreement as to what basis I would confer those rates on him.
SI: Will you ever sell the intellectual property? Also, will you want a bigger sum of money if the creation is used on WWE television?
Nordholm: I’ve stopped thinking about this. We have a show to put on, and a company and a brand. We’ve got things on our plate that are more important than sorting out the “Broken Brilliance.” I made a genuine effort to resolve something to benefit the Hardys as a goodwill gesture to Matt. It didn’t reach a conclusion and we’re moving on. We’re not going back to it, I’m not interested in opening a new dialogue, I’m not interested in opening another conversation about it. We made our best effort, it didn’t happen, and I’m not going to negotiate all over again.
SI: There are reports to Sports Illustrated that Anthem is working to prevent the Hardys from even attempting to pursue similar trademarks, characters, or storylines. The court of public opinion is strongly in favor of the Hardys, while Anthem is hard at work attempting to build a successful wrestling company. What is the benefit for Anthem owning the “Broken Universe” intellectual property?
Nordholm: We paid for it. We have invested in it, it’s our asset. What is the benefit to WWE of owning all the intellectual property that they claim their rights on? It just is. It’s our intellectual property. It’s no different than WWE protecting their rights on intellectual property long after the performers who used to carry it left the promotion. Why would I just give it away now? It makes no sense to me.
SI: Anthem claims that, three days prior to the March Impact tapings, Matt Hardy advised that he would not sign the agreement unless Impact agreed to pay him an additional $100,000 over and above what had been agreed to in the term sheet. Multiple sources have denied this statement and claimed that it is outright spin to make Matt Hardy look bad. Is there any truth to this statement?
Nordholm: Absolutely. On a Sunday night before a Thursday taping, when he had had the contract for a period of time, Matt Hardy called me to let me know he needed another $100,000 bucks or else he wanted to explore his options. I don’t say that to make him look bad. I’m saying it because I don’t blame him for trying to maximize his economics on his last big run. The reality is I couldn’t afford to go another $100,000 at that particular time, and I had to say no. I have no misapprehension; if WWE wants to take a guy away from me, I can’t really compete. I thought I had a deal with Matt, I reached as hard as I could. The part of the story that says we offered Jeff a big deal and Matt a little deal is utter bullsh--. We brought Matt and Jeff almost equal to each other, and offered them a full, all-in contract at a multiple of what he had been making under his old contract. He was there, as far as I knew, right up to the three or four days before he decided not to stay and he tried to get an extra $100,000. I don’t think that makes him look bad; I think that makes him look like a guy who, at his age, has to do the best for his family as he can. But I couldn’t afford another $100,000.
SI: In addition to Matt and Jeff Hardy, other recent departures from the company include Drew Galloway, Maria Kanellis and Mike Bennett, and Cody Rhodes. There are reports that Anthem even enforces new rules in its contracts, which include talent giving 10 percent of their outside bookings to Anthem as well as zero percent of royalties for the talent. Do you worry that Anthem’s dealings with the Hardys will adversely affect its relationship with wrestlers in the future?
Nordholm: Nope. I am quite confident from the number of people that have shown up post the Hardys departure. We have got a very robust roster of new talent. There doesn’t seem to be any issue with how we dealt with the Hardys affecting how professional wrestlers look at the opportunity to work with us. I will say that the issue with respect to the royalties is somewhat of an odd one. It’s been a TNA Impact Wrestling element of their contracts since day one, for years and years–basically, all the wrestlers get a payout on royalty opportunity as part of their compensation structure, and it always has been. That’s not a new rule with us at all. On the participation on outside bookings, we do a service for them that we didn’t do in the past. Part of it is we take on the responsibility of helping them with their bookings, trying to upgrade the quality of their bookings, making sure they get paid, dealing with the promotions, and making sure they get paid the value that they bring to them as people that are on TV. It’s not like it’s just a money grab. We’re working with them in a way that the previous organization didn’t. We’ve got talented people that are out actively trying to find bookings for them. I pay those guys’ salary for the effort they put in to getting them bookings and making sure they get paid for them.