Headquartered in Stamford, World Wrestling Entertainment and its board announced on Friday that they were conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct by its Chairman and CEO Vincent McMahon and John Laurinaitis, head of talent relations.
Per a release, McMahon, who is from Greenwich, voluntarily would step back from his responsibilities as CEO and Chairman of the Board during the investigation. The statement also said McMahon would retain his role and responsibilities related to the company’s creative content during this period and will remain committed to cooperating with the investigation. The statement did not specify the allegations.
The statement announced the board appointed McMahon’s daughter Stephanie to serve as interim CEO and interim Chairwoman.
Mr. McMahon, 76, is being investigated for paying hush money to a woman, a former employee, with whom he allegedly had an affair. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Wednesday that the WWE board was investigating a $3 million payment to the woman.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “The January 2022 separation agreement bars the now-former employee, who was hired as a paralegal in 2019, from discussing her relationship with Mr. McMahon or disparaging him.” According to the report, the separation agreement, signed in January, was intended to prevent the woman from discussing her relationship with or making disparaging comments about McMahon.
Mr. McMahon appeared on SmackDown on Friday in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
From the ring, he repeated the WWE tagline. “Those four words are Then, Now, Forever, and the most important word is Together,” he said to rousing applause. “Welcome to SmackDown,” he said before tossing the mic.
The Wall Street Journal report said according to documents and people familiar with the inquiry, an investigation began in April and had uncovered other, older nondisclosure agreements over the years involving misconduct claims from former employees against McMahon and Laurinaitis.
In May Stephanie McMahon announced she had stepped down from her role as chief brand officer for WWE. At the time she wrote on a LinkedIn post that she was “taking this time to focus on my family.”
Then, on Friday, she posted on LinkedIn: “Until the conclusion of the investigation into recent allegations, I am honored to assume the role of interim Chairwoman & CEO. I love WWE and all it continues to do to entertain billions around the world.”