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Vince McMahon is stepping away from his roles as CEO and chairman of the WWE board of directors amid an investigation into alleged misconduct, the company announced Friday.
McMahon will be replaced by his daughter, Stephanie, on an interim basis while the investigation is ongoing. The company’s board formed a Special Committee to investigate McMahon and head of talent relations John Laurinaitis after both allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior with a former employee.
McMahon will retain his role overseeing WWE’s creative direction during the probe. Laurinaitis will also remain in his role.
Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann of the Wall Street Journal reported McMahon secretly agreed to pay a former employee $3 million in January. McMahon and the employee allegedly had an affair.
“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 said.
The board’s investigation began in April and uncovered past nondisclosure agreements related to allegations made against McMahon and Laurinaitis, according to the Wall Street Journal. Payments made to the former employees “totaled in the millions of dollars.”
A WWE spokesperson said the relationship between McMahon and the former employee who prompted the probe was consensual. The ex-employee was hired as a paralegal in 2019, and McMahon allegedly increased her salary from $100,000 to $200,000 after they began a sexual relationship.
A person who tipped off the board to McMahon’s relationship with the woman said he “gave her like a toy” to Laurinaitis; she was reportedly moved from the legal department to become Laurinaitis’ assistant in 2021.
“My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry [McDevitt] paid her millions of dollars to shut up,” an email read.
The settlement called for an initial $1 million payment, followed by $2 million to be paid out over five years.
McDevitt said the settlement was paid using McMahon’s personal funds, and the ex-employee has not made a claim of sexual harassment.
Stephanie McMahon had stepped away from her role as WWE’s Chief Brand Officer last month to spend more time with her family.
“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,” Stephanie McMahon said.