WWE’s Vince McMahon Resigns After Accusations of Rape and Sex Trafficking

Vince McMahon, co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, stepped down from the parent company of WWE on Friday following accusations by a former employee of rape and sex trafficking.

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McMahon was executive chairman of the TKO Group, the parent company of WWE. He no longer held a formal position with WWE but was the company’s largest shareholder.

The 78-year-old McMahon founded a company that would later become WWE in 1980 and built it into one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world. 

“He will no longer have a role with TKO Group Holdings or W.W.E.,” Nick Khan, the company’s president wrote in an email, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

There have been repeated accusations of sexual misconduct against McMahon. A special committee set up by WWE in 2022 found that over 16 years, McMahon had spent more than $14 million in hush money payouts to women who had accused him of sexual misconduct.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, accuses Mr. McMahon of trafficking the employee, Janel Grant, as well as physically and emotionally abusing her. The graphic complaint, which also named John Laurinaitis, a former W.W.E. executive, and the company itself as defendants, says that Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis had once taken turns raping Ms. Grant, among numerous other allegations.

Mr. McMahon eventually pressured Ms. Grant to sign a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for $3 million, according to the complaint, but paid her only $1 million. The lawsuit also alleges that a number of high-ranking W.W.E. employees and board members, who were not named in the complaint, were aware of Mr. McMahon’s behavior, raising questions about who knew what, and when.

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McMahon released a statement after his resignation claiming Grant’s lawsuit was a “vindictive distortion of the truth” and added that he looked forward to clearing his name. 

During the 2022 investigation, McMahon temporarily resigned from the board of WWE. After the board completed its investigation, McMahon forced out two board members who had opposed him and replaced them with two allies and himself. His daughter, Stephanie, who had served as chair of the board and W.W.E.’s co-chief executive officer, also resigned from the company.

McMahon probably resigned to protect the extraordinarily lucrative media deals that TKO had negotiated recently. 

Since then, W.W.E. has signed long-term media rights contracts that position it well for the future. In September, NBCUniversal paid a reported $1.4 billion to buy the rights to show W.W.E.’s “Friday Night SmackDown” for five years, starting later in 2024.

On Tuesday, TKO Group announced that it had sold the rights to W.W.E.’s flagship weekly show, “Raw,” to Netflix in a deal worth $5 billion over 10 years. The deal is by far Netflix’s biggest foray into live programming, as it seeks to attract more revenue through advertising, which in media is primarily spent on live entertainment.

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WWE was nearly destroyed in the early 1990s by a massive steroids scandal. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted McMahon on charges that he supplied or made available anabolic steroids to his wrestlers. He was acquitted but the stain of steroid use never quite left the industry.

McMahon is certainly a colorful character and his byplay with his wrestlers, scripted or not, was a long-running feature of WWE broadcasts. 

He’ll probably find a way to remain in front of the camera, In that sense, he’s irrepressible.

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