WWE’s McMahon Steps Down Briefly Amid Probe

Vince McMahon, the general public face of American wrestling, stepped apart as chief govt and chairman of World Wrestling Leisure Inc., WWE -3.64% underneath strain from disclosure of a board investigation into alleged misconduct.

The Wall Road Journal reported this week that the WWE board was investigating a secret $Three million settlement the longtime CEO agreed to pay to a departing worker with whom he allegedly had an affair, in accordance with paperwork and folks aware of the board inquiry.

WWE confirmed particulars of the Journal report in a information launch Friday, saying a particular committee of the board “is conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct” by Mr. McMahon and John Laurinaitis, head of WWE expertise relations. The discharge additionally confirmed that the board had employed outdoors counsel to help with the investigation.

A WWE spokesman has declined to say whether or not Mr. Laurinaitis stays with the corporate. Messrs. McMahon and Laurinaitis have declined to answer requests for remark.

Mr. McMahon will retain his function and obligations associated to WWE’s artistic content material throughout this era however will give up his CEO and chairman duties till the investigation has concluded. On Friday night time, Mr. McMahon briefly addressed the gang on the reside wrestling present “WWE SmackDown,” however didn’t point out the board’s investigation or his resolution to step apart as CEO.

Mr. McMahon mentioned within the information launch that he would cooperate with and “do the whole lot attainable to help” the investigation, and he pledged to just accept its findings, “no matter they’re.”

The WWE board named as interim CEO Stephanie McMahon, Vince McMahon’s daughter, who had not too long ago stepped away from her function as chief model officer.

Picture: Lauren Justice/Bloomberg Information

The board appointed Stephanie McMahon as interim CEO. Ms. McMahon, Mr. McMahon’s daughter, had stepped away from her function as WWE’s chief model officer final month, writing in a LinkedIn put up that she was “taking this time to concentrate on my household” however that she deliberate to return.

The 12-member board contains a number of WWE executives and members of the McMahon household, together with Mr. McMahon, who’s chairman; Ms. McMahon; her husband, Paul Levesque, higher often called the wrestler Triple H; and WWE President Nick Khan. Man Jit Singh, a former Sony Photos Residence Leisure govt, is the lead unbiased director and is working the inquiry, in accordance with individuals aware of it.

WWE, which runs the world’s most well-known wrestling enterprise, reported document income final yr, with most of it from promoting content material rights. That income features a five-year unique settlement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform in 2021 that’s valued at $1 billion.

The corporate additionally has TV licensing agreements with Fox Corp. and NBCUniversal, and it not too long ago secured its first stand-alone worldwide distribution take care of Disney Plus Hotstar in Indonesia. Fox and Journal father or mother Information Corp share widespread possession.

WWE is also searching for to make extra worldwide offers and its negotiations nearer to house. The corporate’s take care of Hulu, which streams WWE’s Monday Night time Uncooked, is ready to run out later this yr. Walt Disney Co. holds a majority stake within the streaming platform.

The Journal reported that the January 2022 separation settlement bars the now-former worker, who was employed as a paralegal in 2019, from discussing her relationship with Mr. McMahon or disparaging him, the individuals mentioned. A WWE spokesman mentioned the connection with the ex-paralegal was consensual.

The board’s investigation started in April and has unearthed different, older nondisclosure agreements involving claims by former feminine WWE staff who alleged misconduct by Messrs. McMahon and Laurinaitis, the individuals mentioned.

The board inquiry was prompted by a collection of nameless emails despatched this spring, threatening to disclose the $Three million settlement between Mr. McMahon and the previous WWE worker.

Write to Joe Palazzolo at joe.palazzolo@wsj.com and Ted Mann at ted.mann@wsj.com

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