World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. CEO and chairman Vince McMahon has "voluntarily stepped back" from his responsibilities while the company investigates claims of misconduct.
McMahon, 76, said in a statement, "I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the Special Committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation. I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are."
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. issued a statement that read, "WWE and its board of directors take all allegations of misconduct very seriously. The independent directors of the board engaged independent legal counsel to assist them with an independent review. In addition, the special committee and WWE will work with an independent third-party to conduct a comprehensive review of the company’s compliance program, HR function and overall culture."
Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, was appointed to serve as interim CEO and interim chairwoman by a special board committee. She had previously been the chief brand officer of WWE, but had taken a leave of absence last month to "focus on my family."
Stephanie McMahon said in a statement, "I love this company and am committed to working with the Independent Directors to strengthen our culture and our company; it is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace. I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Special Committee complete its work, including marshaling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings."
The move comes two days after the Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon made a secret $3 million hush payment to a former female employee with whom he allegedly had an affair. The woman was reportedly hired as a paralegal in 2019.
An anonymous person informed WWE board members that McMahon had signed a separation agreement with the unnamed employee in January, according to the report. The agreement provided the former female employee with a $3 million payment paid out over time, but the woman is prevented "from discussing her relationship with Mr. McMahon or disparaging him," according to the Journal.
The investigation – which began in April – is also looking into accusations that other secret payments were made with other women in nondisclosure agreements.
There were reportedly similar arrangements made with women by John Laurinaitis, WWE's head of talent relations. Laurinaitis is a former wrestler with the stage name Johnny Ace.
A WWE spokesman told the WSJ that McMahon’s relationship with the woman was consensual, and he used his personal funds to pay the settlements, including those involving Laurinaitis.
McMahon's attorney, Jerry McDevitt, told the Journal that the former employee had not made any claims of harassment against his client.
The WWE said the company and the board "do not expect to have further comment until the investigation is concluded."
The company's board has seats held by Stephanie McMahon and her husband Paul Levesque – best known as former WWE wrestler Triple H.