WWE CEO and chairperson Vince McMahon “voluntarily stepped back” from his roles within the company amid an investigation of an alleged affair and payout with a WWE employee, according to the Wall Street Journal. Here’s everything we know about McMahon’s ongoing investigation so far.
McMahon is being accused of having an affair with a former WWE paralegal and paying her $3 million as part of a separation agreement from January that also barred her from discussing or disparaging her relationship with him, according to the Wall Street Journal.
An internal probe issued by a WWE special committee reportedly found McMahon issued similar nondisclosure agreements with other former female WWE employees alleging misconduct from both McMahon and WWE head of talent relations John Laurinaitis, according to the WSJ’s report.
WWE board members reportedly launched the investigation intoMcMahon in April, after they learned of the CEO’s alleged misconduct via anonymous emails sent to the company from someone who claimed to be friends with the former WWE paralegal.
According to a joint press release from the WWE board of directors, McMahon will retain his “role and responsibilities” over creative storylines while he is under investigation.
At the moment, it’s unclear whether McMahon will resume his duties as CEO or chairperson. For the time being, his daughter Stephanie McMahon will serve as the company’s interim CEO and chairperson. It’s possible she could take over should her father permanently step down.
Since WWE’s investigation went public, John Laurinaitis, head of talent relations, was placed on administrative leave after being implicated in the investigation. McMahon, the primary subject of the investigation, has made multiple live appearances on WWE programming. During his appearance on last week’s Friday Night Smackdown, McMahon reiterated WWE’s motto of “Then. Now. Forever. Together,” before tossing his microphone and leaving the ring. On this week’s Monday Night Raw, McMahon teased the return of John Cena, which fans were already aware of through WWE’s advertisements.
Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who is Stephanie’s husband, a former WWE superstar, and executive vice president for global talent strategy and development, could be tapped to run the company in Vince’s stead, though his health could stand in the way. Back in September, Levesque went into heart failure, forcing his in-ring retirement, according to ESPN. The Wrestling Observer newsletter further reported that Levesque has since returned to working full-time in the WWE offices, recruiting new wrestlers following his recovery from his health issues.
Levesque has reportedly been given more power within the company following a meeting with wrestlers and officials at the WWE performance center in Orlando, Florida, on June 22. According to the Wrestling Observer newsletter, multiple people at the meeting said Levesque stated “I’m back,” though he never specified whether he will return to his role as the head of WWE’s developmental program, NXT, or solely as the executive vice president for global talent strategy and development for the company.
“He did indicate that there would be things changing but could not go into detail on them just yet,” Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer said.
Shane McMahon, Vince’s son, could also potentially take over as CEO given his prior experience booking wrestling programs with WWE and its “Monday Night Wars” competitor WCW, though his chances are pretty low following his release from the company back in February after the company’s Royal Rumble pay per view, according to Sports Illustrated.
Fans and media outlets speculated that WWE’s recent mass release of wrestlers could signal the company’s plan to eventually sell itself. Though Nick Khan, WWE’s president and chief revenue officer, denied the rumor. Khan said WWE was “not in active conversations” nor was it “actively looking to sell,” according to Bleacher Report.
In 1994, Vince McMahon was charged with supplying illegal performance-enhancing drugs by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The jury found McMahon not guilty.
In 1999, Martha Hart, the wife of the late Owen Hart, sued WWE (then called World Wrestling Federation) for a wrongful death lawsuit after the wrestler fell to his death when his grapple line harness malfunctioned during his entrance from the rafters to the ring at the Over the Edge pay-per-view. Controversially, the company decided to continue the event while Hart was being evacuated from the Kemper arena to the Truman Medical Center where he died of blunt force trauma and internal bleeding. WWE issued an $18 million settlement to Martha in 2000, which she used to form the nonprofit charity organization, the Owen Hart Foundation.
In 2002, the U.K. Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the World Wildlife Foundation, which sued what was then the World Wrestling Federation for breaching its 1994 agreement with the organization that prohibited the wrestling company’s use of the WWF acronym logo, according to CNET. This decision led the company to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment.
Updated, 6/24/22, 12:50 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with news about McMahon and others’ shifting roles within the company.