Vince McMahon has stepped down as Chairman and CEO of WWE and Stephanie McMahon has been named Chairwoman and CEO of the wrestling giant following news of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct by Mr. McMahon and John Laurinaitis, WWE’s head of talent relations.
This news was announced in a joint statement from WWE and its Board of Directors which says, in part, “…[Mr.] McMahon has voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities as CEO and Chairman of the Board until the conclusion of the investigation. McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period and remains committed to cooperating with the review underway. The Special Committee has appointed Stephanie McMahon to serve as interim CEO and interim Chairwoman.”
Mr. McMahon said in a personal statement, ““I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the Special Committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation. I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are.”
Ms. McMahon said in her own personal statement, “I love this company and am committed to working with the Independent Directors to strengthen our culture and our Company; it is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace. I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Special Committee complete its work, including marshaling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings.”
Furthermore, the joint statement from WWE and its Board of Directors concluded, “WWE and its Board of Directors take all allegations of misconduct very seriously. The Independent Directors of the Board engaged independent legal counsel to assist them with an independent review. In addition, the Special Committee and WWE will work with an independent third-party to conduct a comprehensive review of the company’s compliance program, HR function and overall culture. The Company and the Board do not expect to have further comment until the investigation is concluded.”
This announcement comes following a blockbuster report from The Wall Street Journal stating the WWE CEO secretly paid a $3 million settlement in January 2022 to a former employee with whom he had an alleged consensual affair.
WSJ reported the WWE board of directors began an investigation into the matter after it received a series of anonymous emails beginning on March 30 from someone who said they were a friend of the former WWE employee who was hired in 2019 as a paralegal. The investigation would go on to discover other, older nondisclosure agreements pertaining to former female WWE employees and alleged misconduct by Mr. McMahon and Laurinaitis.
WSJ would add in relation to the alleged $3 million settlement, “The first email, sent to board members on March 30, alleged that Mr. McMahon, 76 years old, initially hired the woman at a salary of $100,000 but increased it to $200,000 after beginning a sexual relationship with her. The email to the board also alleged that Mr. McMahon ‘gave her like a toy’ to Mr. Laurinaitis. The board is investigating the allegations in the email, the people familiar with the inquiry said.”