Vince McMahon has “voluntarily stepped back” from his duties as CEO and chairman of WWE, the world’s biggest wrestling company. The announcement from WWE and its board of directors came days after a Wall Street Journal report revealed that the company was investigating McMahon over allegations of misconduct.
The Journal’s initial report claimed that the investigation began after an anonymous source contacted WWE’s board of directors with claims that McMahon paid $3 million in a “hush pact” to a former WWE employee who he allegedly had a sexual relationship with. The board’s independent investigation then reportedly discovered evidence of other such payments and relationships. (McMahon attorney told the Journal that there were no harassment claims against McMahon, and that any payments to employees had been made with his personal money, not the company’s.)
While McMahon is stepping down as CEO for the duration of the investigation, he will “retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period,” according to the company’s official statement.
Here was McMahon’s comment on the decision to step back during the investigation:
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.
McMahon’s daughter, longtime WWE executive Stephanie McMahon, will serve as interim CEO and interim Chairwoman during the investigation. Here was her statement on the announcement:
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.
Vince McMahon purchased what he transformed into World Wrestling Entertainment from his father, longtime wrestling promoter Vincent J. McMahon, in the summer of 1982. The younger McMahon quickly turned a regional promotion into the dominant force in the industry. He’s been in charge of the company ever since, and took it public in 1999.
At various points during his career, McMahon has also had a major onscreen role at the company, initially as the play-by-play announcer and later as a fictionalized version of himself. His “Mr. McMahon” character was an outlandish, vindictive, sex-obsessed, abusive boss who tortured employees he didn’t like and made life miserable for the company’s heroic wrestlers like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
It remains to be seen how long the board’s investigation will take, or what its findings will be. If it concludes that McMahon committed some kind of wrongdoing and needs to resign from WWE, and he honors his word and accepts that decision, it would mark one of the biggest developments in wrestling history. For now at least, the drama behind the scenes of WWE is at least as interesting as anything actually going on in their wrestling ring.
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