Vince McMahon, the polarizing CEO and chairman of WWE, has voluntarily stepped down from his position amid a new investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The story first broke earlier this week after the Wall Street Journal reported that the high-profile pro wrestling exec had allegedly made a $3 million hush money payment to a former employee with whom he supposedly had an affair. Now, as of Friday morning, McMahon is stepping back from his executive role in the organization, at least temporarily, as its board of directors completes an investigation into his alleged conduct.
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After the WSJ revealed the alleged affair and payment, the governing board of the professional wrestling company announced that they had undertaken an inquiry into the situation. The issue centers on an alleged sexual relationship the 76-year-old McMahon had with a female paralegal at the company. The board was first notified of the affair — and the supposed seven-figure payment — by an anonymous email to the directors back in April.
Per the news outlet, the payment was allegedly made in order to prevent the woman from publicly discussing their alleged sexual relationship, or otherwise criticizing McMahon. In addition to the lump sum payment itself, McMahon supposedly gave the woman a pay raise — doubling her salary from $100,000 to $200,000 — after they allegedly became sexually involved.
Later, the report claimed, McMahon supposedly discarded the woman “like a toy,” allegedly passing her off to John Laurinaitis, WWE’s Head of Talent Relations. Eventually, the woman apparently left her job at the publicly-traded company after she became “scared” following the payments and urge to keep quiet.
The large lump sum payment occurred back in January, the WSJ notes. The article also claims that the $3 million reportedly came out of McMahon’s personal funds, and not company coffers. Still, the WWE’s board is rightfully concerned about the allegations of sexual misconduct and impropriety, related both to the alleged payment and the workplace sexual affair.
On Friday morning, per ET, the WWE issued a press release about the situation. In it, they stated McMahon would step back from his business role within the organization, but retain creative control of some of company’s on-air content:
“McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period and remains committed to cooperating with the review underway.”
A spokesperson for the company told the outlet that the reported relationship between both parties was consensual. Cryptically, the WSJ notes that WWE’s internal inquiry “may have also shed light” on other situations involving nondisclosure agreements and potential payments “totaling millions.” Oof…
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McMahon was also quoted in that press release.
The embattled executive, who first purchased the company (which was then called WWF) from his father in 1982, stated that he would cooperate with 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.”
The company also announced that, for the duration of the investigation, Vince’s daughter Stephanie McMahon will step into his role as interim CEO and chairman.
[Image via The Pat McAfee Show/YouTube]