WWE founder and CEO Vince McMahon has “voluntarily stepped back” from his positions as chief executive and chairman amid an internal investigation stemming from allegations that he paid $3 million in hush money to an employee with whom he had an affair.
The investigation has also reportedly uncovered several older agreements related to misconduct claims that other female WWE employees brought against the 76-year-old McMahon and John Laurinaitis, WWE’s head of talent relations.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the allegations.
“McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period and remains committed to cooperating with the review underway,” the company said.
The investigation is being overseen by a special committee from within the board of directors.
McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, will serve as interim CEO and interim chairwoman, according to the WWE.
The WWE board found out about McMahon’s recent $3 million agreement after receiving a series of anonymous emails from someone claiming to be a friend of the woman who had an alleged relationship with the WWE chief, according to the Journal.
The emails reportedly alleged that McMahon hired the woman as a paralegal at a $100,000 salary, then bumped her pay up to $200,000 after they began a sexual relationship. McMahon also “gave her like a toy” to Laurinaitis, the reported emails said.
“My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up,” the person who sent the initial email reportedly wrote.
The email appears to refer to Jerry McDevitt, who works as McMahon’s attorney and did not respond to a request for comment from the Post. McDevitt wrote in a letter to the Journal that the ex-paralegal hadn’t accused McMahon of harassment and that “WWE did not pay any monies” to the ex-employee “on her departure.”
The board has reportedly found that McMahon used his personal funds to pay ex-employees who signed the agreements.
McMahon is married to Linda McMahon, who co-founded WWE alongside her husband and served as the administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Donald Trump.
WWE did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post. A company spokesperson told the Journal that McMahon’s relationship with the paralegal was consensual. The spokesperson also said the WWE is cooperating with its board’s investigation and takes the allegations seriously.
McMahon’s non-disclosure agreement with the 41-year-old ex-paralegal gave her a payment of $1 million upfront and $2 million in additional payments over five years, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the deal.
The WWE’s eight independent directors have reportedly hired law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to conduct the investigation.
Additional reporting by Theo Wayt