Vince McMahon Steps Aside As WWE Chief Amid Probe Into Hush Money Payment To Former Female Employee

Zinger Key Points
  • Stephanie McMahon previously announced a leave of absence to focus on her family.
  • WWE's independent directors hired a law firm to conduct the probe.

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. WWE's Vince McMahon has moved away from his duties as chairman and chief executive while his company conducts an investigation into his handling of hitherto unknown payments to former female employees.

McMahon’s daughter Stephanie McMahon has been named interim chairman and chief executive.

What Happened: A June 15 article in the Wall Street Journal reported that WWE is conducting an internal corporate investigation regarding a $3-million payment to a former female employee with whom McMahon allegedly had an affair.

The former employee was hired as a paralegal in 2019 and signed a non-disclosure agreement last January that prevents her from discussing the nature of her relationship with McMahon.

The WWE board began its investigation into McMahon in April and reportedly discovered older non-disclosure agreements involving former employees and either McMahon or John Laurinaitis, the head of talent relations at the company and a former wrestler who performed under the name Johnny Ace.

The payments made to former employees reportedly totaled millions of dollars.

See Also: The Joe Rogan Effect Continues: Spotify Debuts 'Safety Advisory Council' To Address Thorny Content

McMahon's Step Away From WWE: WWE issued a statement Friday morning announcing that McMahon “voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities as CEO and chairman” while the investigation is taking place. The independent directors on the WWE board have hired a law firm to conduct the probe.

“I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the Special Committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation,” said McMahon in a statement issued by WWE.

“I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are.”

Stephanie is the company’s chief brand officer and is also on the board of directors. She had announced in May that she would be on an indefinite leave of absence to focus on her family.

“I love this company and am committed to working with the independent directors to strengthen our culture and our company,” she said in the same statement.

“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.”

This marks the second time that McMahon temporarily ceded the leadership of his company to a family member.

In November 1993, his wife Linda McMahon took the chief executive reins temporarily when McMahon was indicted in federal court for alleged steroid distribution; he was cleared of the charges in July 1994.

WWE Price Action: WWE shares were trading down 1.36% at $63.99 Friday morning. 

**Update** Despite temporarily stepping down, McMahon will be appearing on WWE's SmackDown tonight (Friday) at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.


Photo of Vince McMahon courtesy of the official Mr. McMahon Facebook page. 

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: EntertainmentNewsLegalSportsGeneralinvestigationStephanie McMahonVince McMahonWWE
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!