Longtime WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon has announced his retirement. The 76-year-old steps down amid a board of directors investigation into accusations he paid millions of dollars in hush money to several female employees with whom he carried on affairs.
McMahon agreed to pay four women more than $12 million over the past 16 years to “suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity,” the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
The board’s investigation is ongoing, a person with knowledge told IndieWire. The probe is also looking into allegations against Vince’s right-hand man John Laurinaitis, a top WWE executive who used to wrestle with the company as “Johnny Ace.” Laurinaitis is still on leave from WWE pending the board investigation, we’re told.
McMahon will no longer be involved with WWE’s creative direction, we’re told. McMahon’s daughter Stephanie McMahon will share the CEO job with company president Nick Khan. Stephanie McMahon, who is also now chairwoman, was handling her father’s now-former role on an interim basis.
Vince McMahon remains WWE’s majority shareholder with 80 percent of the company’s voting shares. According to Forbes, McMahon’s personal net worth is estimated at $2.4 billion.
“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as Chairman and CEO of WWE,” McMahon said in a Friday statement. “Throughout the years, it’s been a privilege to help WWE bring you joy, inspire you, thrill you, surprise you, and always entertain you. I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand. Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment. I hold the deepest appreciation and admiration for our generations of fans all over the world who have liked, currently like, and sometimes even love our form of Sports Entertainment.”
The statement continued: “Our global audience can take comfort in knowing WWE will continue to entertain you with the same fervor, dedication, and passion as always. I am extremely confident in the continued success of WWE, and I leave our company in the capable hands of an extraordinary group of Superstars, employees, and executives – in particular, both Chairwoman and Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon and Co-CEO Nick Khan. As the majority shareholder, I will continue to support WWE in any way I can. My personal thanks to our community and business partners, shareholders, and Board of Directors for their guidance and support through the years. Then. Now. Forever. Together.”
McMahon, who purchased the WWE/WWF from his father in 1982, had stepped back from his executive roles in June as part of a pledge to cooperate with his board of directors’ investigation.
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) July 22, 2022
Earlier on Friday, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Stephanie McMahon’s husband and thus Vince’s son-in-law, announced his return to WWE. “I look forward to returning to my prior position as head of Talent Relations,” he said in a statement. “I’m healthy, fired up, and ready to take charge.”
Levesque, a legendary wrestler and WWE/NXT executive, had been away from the brands for a bit after suffering a heart attack last year. Stephanie McMahon had taken a leave of absence this spring to “focus on” her “family.” She has since returned — and in a big way.
WWE’s weekly Friday show “SmackDown” airs on Fox’s broadcast channel tonight from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Vince McMahon will not make an appearance on the program this evening, a person with knowledge of production plans told IndieWire.