WWE founder and former chairman Vince McMahon has resigned from his positions within TKO Group and no longer has a role with TKO or WWE, the professional wrestling company his family created.
The news comes one day after an explosive lawsuit filed against McMahon, WWE and former WWE executive John Laurinaitis over allegations of sex trafficking, abuse and other charges. McMahon had been a TKO board member and was executive chairman of the board.
In a statement, McMahon said the lawsuit was “replete with lies” and instances that never occurred, and that he would defend himself against the accusations.
“However,” the statement continued, “out of respect for the WWE Universe, the extraordinary TKO business and its board members and shareholders, partners and constituents, and all of the employees and Superstars who helped make WWE into the global leader it is today, I have decided to resign from my executive chairmanship and the TKO board of directors, effective immediately.”
Janel Grant’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in Connecticut, says that she was introduced by a mutual friend to McMahon in the summer of 2019 while dealing with familial and financial trouble. McMahon offered her a job at WWE, which the lawsuit alleges quickly became dependent on a sexual relationship with McMahon. Despite her initial pushback, Grant said she felt coerced into the relationship due to prospective employment and quickly felt trapped in it, as McMahon warned of damage to her career and reputation if word got out. The relationship, which continued through January 2022, put her through sexual acts of “extreme cruelty and degradation,” including injury, the complaint claims in graphic detail, and she would “disassociate and/or become numb to reality” to survive the encounters.
WWE’s board in 2022 began an investigation into McMahon’s alleged misconduct and hush money payments following an anonymous tip about his relationship with Grant, the lawsuit claims. The probe expanded to discover upwards of $12 million in payments to at least four women, according to the Wall Street Journal, though Grant’s lawsuit claimed she was never interviewed as part of their investigation, despite her willingness to cooperate.
McMahon, 78, resigned as WWE chairman in summer 2022 but returned in January 2023 to help sell the company. He was, at the time, WWE’s controlling shareholder. But following the sale to Endeavor and merger with Ultimate Fighting Championship into TKO Group, McMahon is no longer a controlling shareholder and thus no longer has a controlling shareholder.
McMahon was also served with a grand jury subpoena and search warrant in July 2023, the company disclosed last year, saying it believed it was a continuation of the investigation into McMahon’s conduct. McMahon also denied wrongdoing at the time. TKO had said in recent filings that McMahon’s investigations presented a risk to the company. Slim Jim on Friday paused its advertising partnership with WWE, the snack company said in a statement to Post Wrestling.
McMahon bought what is now WWE from his father in 1982 and turned it into a global corporation that has since dominated the professional wrestling industry. He initially stayed behind the scenes or worked as an on-screen play-by-play announcer. But in the 1990s, his role as the company’s leader became an on-screen villainous character, “Mr. McMahon,” who feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin and many wrestlers over the years. His on-screen appearances were rare over the last several years, last appearing on WWE television on June 20, 2022.
Now his role with the company synonymous with his name appears to be over.
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