Vince McMahon has “voluntarily stepped back” from his responsibilities as WWE CEO and chairman while the board of directors investigates claims of misconduct against the exec, the company said Friday.
Variety reports that the board of WWE has launched an investigation into allegations that McMahon offered a $3 million settlement to a former female employee with whom he had an affair, according to a detailed investigative report Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal.
WWE said Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, will assume the role of interim CEO and interim chairwoman. She comes back to the company after last month announcing a leave of absence as WWE’s chief brand officer to “focus on my family.”
Vince McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during the investigation and remains “committed to cooperating with the review underway,” the company said Friday. The board also is investigating alleged misconduct by John Laurinaitis, WWE’s head of talent relations.
In a statement, Vince McMahon said, “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.”
After WWE announced the board’s investigation into McMahon, the company posted a tweet saying that he would appear on Friday’s “SmackDown” live on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.
Mr. McMahon will appear on SmackDown tonight at 8 PM ET live on FOX. pic.twitter.com/6XEEDwR0Hy
— WWE (@WWE) June 17, 2022
Stephanie McMahon said in a 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.”
“WWE and its board of directors take all allegations of misconduct very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “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 said it does not expect to have further comment until the investigation is concluded.
In its report Wednesday, the Journal reported that Vince McMahon set a separation agreement with the employee in January 2022 that included a $3 million payment doled out over time in exchange for an agreement not to disparage McMahon or the company. WWE board members first learned of the settlement offer through a series of anonymous emails received from an individual claiming to be a friend of the former employee, according to the Journal.
The board’s investigation uncovered other settlement agreements involving McMahon and Laurinaitis, the Journal reported. A WWE spokesman told the Journal that McMahon’s relationship with the woman, who was hired as a paralegal in 2019, was consensual and that the executive used his personal funds to pay the settlements, including those involving Laurinaitis.
WWE is the world’s most prominent professional wrestling brand, with the corporation maintaining a strong presence in primetime TV and in live touring for decades. The publicly traded company reported a record $1.1 billion in revenue last year, which encompassed a five-year exclusive streaming agreement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock in the U.S.