Vince McMahon “voluntarily stepped back” from his role as WWE CEO and chairman while its board investigates alleged misconduct, the company said Friday.
Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, was named interim CEO and interim chairwoman. Vince McMahon will retain his role in regards to WWE’s creative content.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Stephanie McMahon added: “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.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, McMahon was under investigation from the company’s board for an alleged secret $3 million payment to a former employee he supposedly had an affair with.
The 12-member board, which also includes McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon, and son-in-law Paul Levesque (better known as Triple H), learned of the alleged settlement agreement from anonymous emails from someone who claimed to be a friend of the woman, who was a paralegal at WWE, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
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An email was reportedly sent to the board March 30 and claimed the woman’s salary was increased after McMahon began a “sexual relationship with her” and then McMahon “gave her like a toy” to the head of talent relations, John Laurinaitis. WWE said the board is also investigating Laurinaitis.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a separation agreement was reached that bars the former employee from discussing the relationship or disparaging McMahon. The woman was first hired in 2019.
The board’s investigation into the issue began in April, when other nondisclosure agreements over misconduct claims from former workers against McMahon and Laurinaitis were revealed, according to the report.
A letter to the paper from McMahon’s lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, said the woman hadn’t made any claims of harassment against McMahon, and the company “did not pay any monies” to the woman “on her departure.”
“WWE and its Board of Directors take all allegations of misconduct very seriously,” the company said in Friday’s news release. “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.”
McMahon bought the company, then called the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), from his father in 1982 and helped build it into what it is today.