Vince McMahon is stepping down as CEO and chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, the company announced Friday, as the company investigates a report that he agreed to pay a hush money to a former employee.
WWE said in a press release, “effective immediately, a special committee of the Board of Directors is investigating alleged misconduct by its Chairman and CEO Vincent McMahon and Director of Talent Relations John Lauri Natis, McMahon has voluntarily stepped down from his duties. As chief executive officer and chairman of the board pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
WWE stated that McMahon is cooperating with the investigation and will “retain roles and responsibilities related to WWE creative content during this time.”
“I have pledged to cooperate fully with the select committee’s investigation, and I will do everything possible to support it. I have also pledged to accept the findings and findings, whatever they may be,” McMahon said in a statement.
McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, will serve as interim CEO and chairman, WWE said.
Friday’s move comes after the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that McMahon had agreed to a confidential $3 million settlement with the former employee, who was hired as a paralegal in 2019. The separation agreement, signed in January, was designed to prevent the woman from discussing her relationship with McMahon or making disparaging comments about him, The Wall Street Journal reported. An investigation that began in April and found other nondisclosure agreements over the years involved allegations of misconduct by former employees against McMahon and Laurinaitis, the report said, citing documents and people familiar with the investigation.
WWE said in its press release that no further comment is expected until the investigation is complete. The company did not specify the allegations against McMahon. WWE also said the company and its special committee will work with an independent third party to conduct a comprehensive review of its compliance program, HR function and overall culture.
McMahon bought what was then the World Wrestling Federation from his father Vincent J. McMahon in 1982 and built the company into a global wrestling powerhouse and media conglomerate that produced companies such as Hulk Hogan, The Crossover stars like Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena.
WWE is a public company, but McMahon still has majority voting rights. Shares in the company fell 4% before the open on Friday.
This report uses information from ESPN’s Marc Raimondi and the Associated Press.